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by Leonard Cottrell . 


Professor Alan Wace 

M.A., L1TT.D., F.B.A., F.S.A.J 

Professor of Classics and Archaeology, 

Farouk I University of Alexandria, 


Rinehart ir Company, Inc. 

First Published in the United States in 2958 

Copyright, 1953, by Evans Brothers Limited 

Copyright 1958 by Evans Brothers Limited 

Printed in the United States of America 

All rights reserved 
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 58-11633 

Grateful acknowledgment is expressed to the following agents, authors and 
publishers for permission to reprint copyrighted material from their publi- 

ANTIQUITY, London, England, for brief extracts from "Greek Records in 
the Minoan Script," by Michael Ventris and Alan Wace, which first ap- 
peared in the December 1953 issue of Antiquity. 

THE CLARENDON PRESS, Oxford, England, for a brief quotation from 
THE RISE OF THE CREEK EPIC, by Professor G. Murray. 

J. M, DENT & SONS LTD., London, England, for brief Quotations from 

HISTORY OF GREECE, by George Grote (published in the Everyman's 

Library in the U. S. A. by E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc.). 
HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, Cambridge, Massachusetts, for brief 

extracts from APOLLODORUS, by Sir J. G. Frazer, published in the Loeb 

Classical Library. 
W. D. HOGARTH, London, England, for a brief extract from an article by 

D. G. Hogarth, which appeared in the Monthly Review, Jan.-March 1901, 

and LITTLE, BROWN & COMPANY, Boston, Massachusetts, for brief 
extracts from SCHLIEMANN OF TROY, by Emil Ludwig. 

short quotation from the article, "Overlords of Mycenae Before the Days 
of Agamemnon," by Dr. J. Papadimitriou, which was first published in 
the September 27, 1952 issue of The Illustrated London News. 

LONGMANS, GREEN & CO., INC., New York, N. Y., for brief extracts 
from TIME AND CHANCE, by Joan Evans. 

MACMILLAN & CO., LTD., London, England, and ST. MARTIN'S PRESS, 
INC., New York, N. Y., for illustrations and short quotations from THE 
PALACE OF MINOS, bv Sir Arthur Evan^ r and brief excerpts from HISTORY 
OF GREECE, by J. JB. uury. 

METHUEN & CO., LTD., London, England, for an extract from THE 
ARCHAEOLOGY OF CRETE, by John Pendlebury. 

THE NEW YORK TIMES, New York, N. Y., for a brief quotation from an 
article which first appeared in The Times of London on August 10, 1900. 

PENGUIN BOOKS LTD., Middlesex, England, for extracts from E. V. 
Rieu's translation of Homer. 

England, for illustrations and brief quotations from the article, "Evidence 
for Greek Dialect in the Mycenaean Archives/' by Michael Ventris and 
John Chadwick, as first published in the Journal of Hellenic Studies, and 
quotations from the Obituary Notice on Sir Arthur Evans published by the 

To my friend 
Pola Brandeis 


THIS book was planned in 1951, written in 1952 and 1953 and 
published at the end of that year. While it was in the press, there 
were several remarkable developments in Aegean archaeology 
which it was not possible to include in the former edition except 
in the form of a brief Appendix. These were the discovery at 
Mycenae of an entirely "new" Grave Circle containing rich treas- 
ures of Mycenaean art; other noteworthy finds by the late Pro- 
fessor Wace in the area beyond the walls of the Citadel; and last, 
but not least, the partial decipherment of the Minoan/Mycenaean 
"Linear B" script by Michael Ventris. 

I have taken the opportunity of bringing the book up to date 
by the addition of two Appendices, and making sundry revisions 
in the rest of the text. At the same time the body of the book re- 
mains much the same, based as it was on a visit I made to Greece 
and Crete in the Spring of 1951. The new discoveries, though they 
have opened up new and exciting vistas, do not affect the histori- 
cal part of the narrative; in fact it is impossible properly to ap- 
preciate the significance of the new developments until one has 
studied the conclusions reached by Schliemann and Evans. 

It remains for me to express my gratitude to the authors 
whose works form the principal basis of this book. 

Any author attempting to write a book on the rise of the 
Minoan civilization must inevitably draw deeply from Sir Arthur 
Evans's great work, The Palace of Minos. My chief debt of 
gratitude is, therefore, to Sir Arthur's literary executors, to the 
Clarendon Press and to Messrs. Macmillan, for allowing me not 
only to quote from the book, but also to reproduce some of the 
unique illustrations of Minoan culture in which it is so rich. 

I am also grateful to the British Broadcasting Corporation, 
who made it possible for me to visit Greece and Crete in connec- 
tion with my radio documentary programs on Heinrich Schlie- 
mann and Sir Arthur Evans. 

I would also like to express my gratitude for the help given by 
the late Professor Alan Wace, who kindly read my manuscript, 



for his valuable suggestions and for writing the Introduction. 

Among the many literary sources listed in the Bibliography 
at the end of this book, I gained special pleasure and benefit from 
Emil Ludwig's life of Schliemann, from Schliemann's own works 
especially Ilios, with its fascinating autobiographical details 
and the works of Schuchhardt, Dorpfeld, and Karo. 

For the personal background to Sir Arthur Evans's life the 
most complete and authoritative source is Time and Chance, 
written by his half sister, Dr. Joan Evans, and published towards 
the end of the Second World War. The late Sir John Myres was 
kind enough to welcome me to his Oxford home, and gave me a 
first-hand impression of his lifelong friend such as I could never 
obtain from the printed word alone. 

Next to The Palace of Minos, John Pendlebury's Archaeol- 
ogy of Crete remains the most complete and readable survey 
of the prehistoric civilization of Crete. I was first brought into 
contact with Pendlebury's work by H. W. Fairman, Professor of 
Egyptology at the University of Liverpool, who had dug with 
Pendlebury on the site of Akhnaten's city of Tell-el-Amarna, in 
Egypt. After visiting Tell-el-Amarna myself in 1947, it became 
my ambition to visit Knossos, where Pendlebury was Curator 
for a number of years. When I realized that ambition and studied 
the Palace of Minos with Pendlebury's Guide in my hand, it was 
with some sadness, for the young scholar, who loved the Cretan 
people, had been one of the leaders of the Cretan Resistance and 
had died in the struggle. Had he lived, he might have become a 
worthy successor to Evans, who liked and respected him. 

Since these lines were written, I have sadly to record the 
death of another friend and helper, Michael Ventris, whose bril- 
liant decipherment of the Minoan "Linear B" script has been truly 
described as "the Everest of Greek Archaeology." 

Special thanks are also due to the staff of the British School 
at Athens, who helped to arrange my visit to Knossos, and to the 
London Staff of the School, especially its able Secretary, Miss 
Edith Clay. I am also particularly grateful for the professional 
guidance of Dr. Frank Stubbings, University Lecturer in Classics 
at Cambridge. 

With two exceptions, all the quotations from the Iliad and 


the Odyssey are from the translation by Mr. E. V. Rieu, published 
in the Penguin series. 

Finally, I wish to thank Mr. and Mrs. Ket de Jong for their 
help and hospitality. Piet. de Jong was the last British Curator 
of Knossos before it was handed over, with the Villa Ariadne, to 
the Greek authorities in 1952. He had been appointed by Sir 
Arthur Evans as his architect in 1922; but the hard, self-denying 
work which de Jong and his wife carried out to efface the results 
of wartime neglect of the Palace and its estate was not the least 
of his achievements. Had Sir Arthur himself lived, he would have 
been the first to congratulate his former architect. May I, there- 
fore, as a disinterested outside observer, record the fact that 
when the Palace of Minos was finally handed over to Greece, its 
sound condition, and that of the Villa Ariadne and its accom- 
panying estate, was largely due to this modest Yorkshireman and 
his wife, who had to cope with postwar difficulties which Sir 
Arthur was happily spared. 



ALTHOUGH I have made certain alterations and additions, the 
present edition is substantially that published in Britain, Germany, 
France and Italy during the past three years. The Appendices, 
describing some of the most recent finds at Mycenae, and the late 
Michael Ventris's decipherment of the Minoan "Linear B" script, 
remain with but little alteration. They have been left in their 
present position and not incorporated in the main body of the 
text, since they describe discoveries made after the events of 
which thif book is a record. 





ONE of the great discoveries of the last eighty-five years has been 
the discovery of the civilization of prehistoric Greece; the Aegean 
Civilization, as it is sometimes called. Before 1870 the history of 
Greece began approximately with the First Olympiad in 776 B.C. 
Everything before that date was legendary and mythical. The 
age of Homer and Homer's heroes and their cities was also re- 
garded as belonging to a kind of classical fairyland. 

Now archaeological research has carried back the history of 
Greece beyond the beginning of the third millennium* B.C. The 
First Olympiad was not even at the opening of the Iron Age. 
Greek history has been traced by archaeology back to the very 
beginning of the Iron Age, back through the whole length of the 
Bronze Age and back into the Neolithic Age, to the dawn of 

This knowledge is the fruit of the work of many scholars of 
many nations, but it is in the main due to the inspired research of 
two men, Heinrich Schliemarm and Arthur Evans. The story of 
their work reads like a romance, and a romance it really is. Schlie- 
mann, the penniless errand boy who became a merchant prince, 
from the echoes of his schooldays dreamt always of finding Troy 
and proving that there was a solid base of history behind Homer. 
He constantly said that he had discovered a new world for archae- 
ology. He was not able in his lifetime to see the full extent of the 
new world he had opened up, but his excavations at Troy, My- 
cenae and Tiryns revealed an almost limitless field for research. 
His collaborators and his followers gradually began to fill in the 
details. Then, ten years after Schliemann's death, Evans, by his 
excavations at Knossos, in Crete, unveiled another aspect of this 
new world, an aspect of unexpected splendor. He had been led 
to this by his conviction that a culture so brilliant as the Mycen- 
aean could not have been dumb. He felt, he knew, that the 
creators of the great prehistoric culture of Greece which Schlie- 



mann had found, which shines in the Homeric poems, must have 
been literate, must have been able to write and to read. Follow- 
ing the great work of Evans at Knossos others have excavated in 
Crete, and in recent years the Greek Mainland has again become 
the center of interest, with renewed excavations at Tiryns and 
Mycenae and with the discovery of the House of Cadmus at 
Thebes and of the Palace of Nestor at Pylos, with a great number 
of inscribed clay tablets. The summer of 1952 saw the excavation 
of another circle of royal graves at Mycenae, a generation older 
than the rich royal graves found by Schliemann in 1876, and the 
discovery of inscribed tablets in a large private house, which 
confirms yet again the correctness of Evans's conviction. 

In former days first Troy and then Crete were treated as our 
earliest sources for the history of Greece, but in view of the 
excavations of the last thirty-five years on the Greek Mainland, 
the solution of the problem of the Coming of the Greeks and 
the dawn of Greek and European civilization must be sought on 
the Mainland of Greece itself where, though many details await 
elucidation, the main archaeological stratification is now clear. 
The history of Greece begins with a Neolithic Age which ended 
about 3000 B.C. This was succeeded by the Early Bronze Age, 
when a bronze-using people akin to early inhabitants of Crete and 
of the Cyclades entered Greece from its southeastern coasts. This 
people apparently was not Indo-European and introduced into 
Greece many place and plant names which end in -nthos, -ene, 
-ssos. Places with such names are Korinthos, Mykene, Parnassos, 
and plant names are terebinthos and kolokynthos, and there are 
yet other names like labyrinthos and asaminthos. Not long after 
2000 B.C., a new people entered Greece, who seem to have been 
the first Greeks to enter Hellas. Whence they came we do not 
know, but it is possible that they came by way of the Dardanelles. 
Just as the Early Bronze Age people seem to have coalesced 
with the Neolithic people, so this Middle Bronze Age people, the 
first Greeks, also coalesced with the previous inhabitants. Thus, 
by the end of the Middle Bronze Age soon after 1600 B.C., the 
population of Greece was already a mixed race, although prob- 
ably by the incoming of fresh drafts of Greek tribes the proportion 
of Greek was steadily increased. 

Between the Middle Bronze Age and the Late Bronze Age, 


which began about 1580 B.C., there was no break, but merely a 
steady evolution from one phase to another. The principal feature 
which marks the beginning of the Late Bronze Age is the influence 
which the Minoan civilization of Crete then exerted on the cul- 
ture of the Mainland. During the Middle Bronze Age there seems 
to have been little direct contact between the Mainland and Crete. 
Gradually, towards the end of the Middle Bronze Age, the in- 
fluence of Crete became stronger; and with the beginning of the 
Late Bronze Age the culture of the Mainland had adapted and 
adopted much of the Minoan culture. With the beginning of the 
second phase of the Late Bronze Age ( Late Minoan II and Late 
Helladic II, 1500-1400) the relations between Knossos, which 
was then in its culture noticeably different from the rest of Crete, 
and the Mainland seem to have been close. This must not be taken 
to mean that Knossos colonized or exercised political domination 
over the Mainland. It is true that there is much that is of Cretan 
origin in the culture of the Mainland at this time, but there are 
equally many elements in the culture of Knossos that are of Main- 
land origin. The exact relationship which then prevailed between 
Knossos and the Mainland remains for later investigation and 
definition. With the last phase of the Late Bronze Age ( 1400 to 
the latter part of the twelfth century B.C. ) Mycenae and the Main- 
land succeeded to the leadership of the Aegean world, after the 
destruction of the Palace of Minos at Knossos about 1400 B.C. 
At the end of the twelfth century there was a transition from the 
age of bronze to the age of iron, and this is marked by a gradual 
change in the pottery. This is the time when the Dorians are said 
traditionally to have entered Greece. 

We must not assume that with the coming of the Dorians 
there was a racial or a cultural change in Greece. The culture 
of the Iron Age evolves naturally from that of the last phase of 
the Bronze Age, and there is a fairly broad period of transition 
from one to the other. Since we believe that there were Greeks 
in Greece from the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age onwards, 
it is misleading to assume, as some scholars do, that the history 
and culture of Greece begin only with the Iron Age. The history 
and culture of Greece were in a state of continual evolution from 
the Neolithic Age onwards. From the opening of the Middle 
Bronze Age the Greek race, the Hellenes, began to develop, and 


it was a mixed race composed of the Neolithic people, the Early 
Bronze Age people and the successive waves of Greek-speaking 
peoples who began to enter Greece in the Middle Bronze Age. 
This continuity of the development of Greece from the earliest 
times is one of the many things we have learned by following in 
the footsteps of Schliemann and Evans. 

We see thus that, through the work of two inspired explorers, 
at least two millennia have been added to the history of Greece; 
and that our knowledge of the development of the Greek race, to 
which our civilization owes so much, has been increased to an 
extent far beyond our dreams. 

In this book Mr. Cottrell tells the story of the two men re- 
sponsible for this tremendous expansion of knowledge. One, 
Schliemann, had never enjoyed any real education, but was self- 
taught and self-trained. As an excavator he was a pioneer, for in 
his day archaeological excavation was in its infancy. 

Like many pioneers, Schliemann had to struggle against 
much misrepresentation to obtain recognition for his great dis- 
coveries. For a time he was almost a lone prophet crying in the 
wilderness. Now the truth of his discoveries and their overwhelm- 
ing importance are universally recognized and the feeble voices 
of dissent can be rightly disregarded. 

Evans had enjoyed the advantages of the usual English 
public-school and Oxford education of his day and had also been 
able to undertake advanced study at a German university. His 
archaeological instincts came to him partly by inheritance from 
his distinguished father and partly from his own exploring mind, 
which ranged far and wide. Early in life he showed that he had 
a remarkable talent for exploratory travel, but he had had no 
training in excavation. Thus the work he carried out at Knossos 
was the more remarkable. The results of it he was able to put 
before the world, thanks to his education, wide learning and ex- 
perience, in such a form that all could understand the importance 
of his discoveries and appreciate their full implications. 

All this Mr. Cottrell makes clear to the reader, and he has cast 
it in the form of a romance, which it truly is. This form of learned 
exploration is an adventure in itself, and its record should be 
told in a corresponding manner. Let us hope that what Mr. Cot- 
trell has written so attractively will inspire young men and 


women of this and future generations to imitate these two great 
men, Schliemann and Evans. They revealed a new world for 
archaeology and for classical studies, but if much has been 
learned, much still remains to be learned. The recent decipher- 
ment of the inscribed clay tablets written in the script called 
"Linear B" has proved that the language was an early form of 
Greek. This brilliant achievement, due mainly to the late Michael 
Ventris, has unveiled for us an entirely new aspect of the Mino- 
Mycenaean world and of the beginnings of Greek and of the 
Greeks, to whose genius the whole of mankind is eternally in- 
debted. The greatest representative of that genius is Homer, the 
supreme poet of the world, whose immortal poems shine with 
even stronger brilliance in the light of the really epoch-making 
achievements of Schliemann and of Evans. 







I Homer and the Historians 8 

ii Schliemann the Romantic 20 

1 1 1 The "Treasure of Priam" 30 

iv "Golden Mycenae" 42 

v Pause for Reflection 56 

v i "Here Begins an Entirely New Science" 69 

vii The Quest Continues 82 

vin Prelude to Crete 91 

I x Island of Legend 102 

x A Challenge Accepted 110 

xi The Birth Cave of Zeus 120 

x 1 1 "And Still the Wonder Grew" 123 

xiii Into the Labyrinth 131 

xiv The Villa Ariadne 141 

x v The Palace of the Sea Kings 155 

xvi "The Old Traditions Were True" 169 




INDEX 227 



Furthermore, after he (Theseus) was arrived in Crete, 
he slew there the Minotaur (as the most part of ancient 
authors do write) by the means and help of Ariadne; who 
being fallen in fancy with him, did give him a clue of 
thread, by the help whereof she taught him, how he might 
easily wind out of the turnings and cranks of the Labyrinth. 

PLUTARCH (North's translation) 


I LEFT Athens at midday in the Automatrice, a reasonably fast 
Diesel train, which trundled along for four hours beside the sun- 
glittering Gulf of Salamis, through pale green valleys hemmed in 
by low, treeless hills of grey limestone, past dust-grey villages set 
among the dark spearlike cypresses. The light was white and in- 
tense, the magical light of Hellas, which shadows impartially the 
fluting of a Doric column or the hard lines of a peasant's face. We 
passed Megara, near which the hero Jason kicked the giant 
Sciron into the sea (where he turned into a tortoise), and then, 
after miles of gnarled olive trees, slowed and stopped at New 

I had over an hour to wait at the squalid railway station, 
which seemed designed to destroy all romantic preconceptions of 
Greece. On the dirty, paper-littered platform sat sad-eyed women 
in drab, shapeless clothes, and a few listless men, cloth-capped 
and collarless. Among them was a sullen youth with a strained, 
handsome face, who looked older than his years. He had lost a 
leg in the Civil War and hobbled painfully on crutches. A few 
meagre-looking fowl pecked between the tracks, and a small 
ragged boy moved along the platform with a trayful of "souflakia" 
fragments of meat on wooden skewers but he had few cus- 

So this was Greece. It served me right for my selfish pre- 
occupation with the past. What else had I any right to expect 
in postwar Greece? Invaded in turn by Italians and Germans, 
then, when other countries had gained peace, subjected to a 
bitter Civil War, Greece was now impoverished and exhausted. 
Was this a time for half-baked romantics to come poking about 
among her ruins? So I reproached myself, wishing either that 
I could have visited the country in happier times, or that I had 
the temperament of a contemporary reporter who could apply 
himself fearlessly and frankly to her present-day problems. 

Another train took me southward again, crawling slowly 
round the skirts of the two-thousand-foot mountain on which 



stands the Acrocorinthus. Dramatically it rose from the darkening 
plain, a dome of limestone capped by the ruins of the Temple of 
Athena, and the citadel from which the ancient Corinthians com- 
manded the Isthmus. By the time its black silhouette had passed 
out of view, the sun had set, and only an occasional cluster of 
lights revealed a village among the folded hills. My fellow pas- 
sengers were mostly peasants, the women usually in black, with 
head scarves, and laden baskets resting on their broad laps. They 
chatted, but the suntanned men usually sat silent. Occasionally a 
pipe would be removed from beneath a curled moustache; a brief 
remark would accompany a flash of strong white teeth; then the 
pipe would be replaced, the arms folded, and dark eyes beneath 
round black turbans would resume their detached but unhostile 
contemplation of the stranger. 

As I watched them, my spirits rose a little. In fact, so fas- 
cinating were those grave, contemplative faces that I almost 
forgot to get out at my destination. Glancing up when the train 
had been halted for nearly a minute, I happened to see a station 
name board in the yellow light of an oil lamp. It was Mycenae. 
Even as I snatched my bag from the rack and scrambled out of 
the carriage, the absurdity of the situation struck me. To see the 
name of Agamemnon's proud citadel, Homer's "Mycenae, rich in 
gold," the scene of Aeschylus's epic tragedy, stuck on a station 
platform, was too bizarre. And yet there it was. And there was I, 
the sole occupant of the platform, watching the red rear light of 
the little train as it slowly receded into the night. 

A full moon was rising, and the groves of olive trees rustled 
gently in the night wind, which brought with it the faint scent of 
thyme. I looked around for the car which my friends in Athens 
had told me might be waiting to take me to the village inn at 
Charvati, two miles away. It was not there. So, hitching my bag 
on my shoulder, I set off along the straight, olive-bordered lane 
towards the hills which showed clearly in the moonlight. As I 
walked I felt happier. Without knowing why, I began to believe 
that Mycenae would not disappoint me. 

A few lights gleamed through the trees ahead. Some way 
off a dog barked and another answered. The hills were quite 
close now, and I could see the scattered houses of the village 
clustered on the lower slopes. The houses lay on the left of the 


road. On the right the plain of Argos stretched open to the sea, 
which, although I could not see it, I knew was only a few miles 
away. The inn, I had been told, was by the roadside, set back 
behind a break in the trees. Could this be it, this small, dark, 
flat-fronted building without a light showing? Yes, there was the 
sign, hung from a tree by the roadside. I shone my torch and 
read, "La Belle H^lene de Menelaiis." 

If it had adorned a large, neon-lit hotel with a car park and 
a gold-braided porter, the inn's sign would have seemed smart 
aleck and vulgar; but not as it was, hung in front of this unpre- 
tending house in an unpretending village, I knocked, waited, 
knocked again; but the house seemed deserted. There was no 
sound within, and not a light showed. The dog barked again, a 
long way off. The oleanders stirred in the slight breeze, and again 
came that faint, fresh smell of thyme. I felt curiously elated and 
expectant, not at all cast down by this apparent indifference to 
my arrival. My Athenian hosts had warned me that, although they 
had sent a telegram to the proprietor of the inn, there was no 
certainty that it would arrive. 

Then came a light step crossing the hall; the door opened, 
and there emerged, first a slim white arm holding aloft an oil 
lamp, then the owner of the arm. She was about twenty-three, 
fair-skinned, with a wide, firm mouth; strong, rounded chin; and 
deep, dark eyes under a smooth brow. She stood for a moment 
on the top step, looking down at me. Her dress was that of a 
peasant, a simple cream-colored frock with a scarlet jacket care- 
lessly thrown over it, but her face was like one of the sculptured 
maidens of the porch of the Erechtheum on the Athenian. Acrop- 
olis. It was too absurdly romantic the plain of Argos Helen of 
Troy had been called "Argive Helen" the name on the inn sign, 
the Homeric setting. 

In the inn there were two men, and an older woman who 
seemed to be the mother of the girl who had admitted me. Evi- 
dently the telegram had not come and my arrival had taken them 
unawares, but now, recovering from their surprise, they bustled 
about the house, up and down the stairs, in and out of dining 
room and kitchen, eager to make me comfortable. The older of 
the two men, tall, lean and dark, with stubble on his long chin, 
appeared to be in charge. As he shouted orders, lamps were 


brought into the stone-flagged dining room, the girl spread a 
cloth and laid the table, while her mother hurried upstairs to 
prepare my bed. The other man, who seemed to be the brother of 
the first, then entered carrying a three-legged shallow brazier 
filled with glowing coals. This he placed beneath the table so 
that I might warm my feet. As the brazier carrier was hurrying 
out again, his brother caught him by the arm and, pointing to 
him, said to me, "Orestes!" And then, indicating himself, he 
added, "Agamemnon!" 

We all bowed and smiled. I did not dare inquire the name 
of the girl. It would have been too disappointing if she had not 
been named Helen or Andromache. Now she entered again, bear- 
ing my meal a superb omelette, a fine cheese and a bottle of 
pale golden wine the familiar resin-flavored retzina which is 
drunk all over Greece. 

Dinner over, I wandered around the room, examining the 
photographs on the walls: pictures of the citadel of Mycenae, 
with its Lion Gate, its Cyclopean walls and the huge beehive- 
shaped "tholos" tombs which I had studied so often in weighty 
volumes at home. To think that these glories lay only a mile away 
in the dark hills, awaiting exploration tomorrow, filled me with 
excitement. On a table lay a copy of Professor Wace's book on 
Mycenae, with his written greetings to my cheerful hosts. Wace, 
they had told me in Athens, had stayed here during the previous 
year while superintending his latest "dig" at Mycenae. 

While turning Wace's pages I found Agamemnon, my host, 
standing at my elbow with the inn's Visitors' Book. He held it 
under the light, pointing with a brown finger at an entry on a 
page dated 1942. It was a foreign signature, difficult to read at 
first. Then, with a start, I recognized it Hermann Goering. My 
host flicked the pages and pointed to another signature Hein- 
rich Himmler. Somewhat shaken, I took the book from his hand, 
sat down and carefully read through the names entered during 
the early years of the war. I also found Goebbels, together with 
many scores of officers and men of Panzerdivizionen, from gen- 
erals to privates. 

What had attracted the Nazi chiefs and so many German 
soldiers to this spot? They had come to pay tribute to the memory 
of Heinrich Schliemann. Eighty years ago that great German 


archaeologist had come here after his triumphs at Troy, and dug 
from beneath the citadel treasures which proved that Homer's 
"golden Mycenae" had been aptly named. Schliemann had died 
more than sixty years ago, yet his influence was still felt. Was 
it not a habit of Schliemann to call his workmen by Homeric 
names, and often to stand godfather to their children? No doubt 
the Agamemnon who stood watching me now had been so spon- 

For a time I lay awake, reading Wace's book by candlelight, 
and listening to the faint sound of the night wind, and the oc- 
casional croak of a frog. When I snuffed the candle, I was too 
excited to sleep. Again and again my thoughts kept returning to 
the parson's son from Mecklenburg who believed in the literal 
truth of Homer; the self-made merchant turned archaeologist 
whose instinct proved more accurate than the learning of 
scholars; that exasperating, bewildering, yet likable mixture of 
shrewdness and naivety Doctor Heinrich Schliemann. From 
Schliemann my thoughts turned to Homer, the poet whom he 
idolized and by whom he was led to make those discoveries 
which set up such a fluttering in the academic dovecotes. 

But before we can understand what Schliemann did to the 
historians, it is necessary to know something of the academic 
world into which the eccentric German erupted. To that world, 
and its view of Homer, I devote my first chapter. 



I AM going to assume that not all readers of this book will be 
specialists in Greek epic poetry or the prehistoric civilizations of 
the Aegean. Many, perhaps, will be in that vague but happy state 
of half knowledge which I enjoyed before I was drawn down 
into the vortices of Homeric research. This is, they may know 
their Homer, either in the original or in one of those excellent 
modern translations (such as that made by Mr. E. V. Rieu and 
published in the Penguin series); they may have a working 
knowledge of Greek classical history and may recall that at some 
time in the last century someone dug up "Homer's Troy" and 
"Homer's Mycenae" and thus proved to everyone's delight that 
the Iliad and the Odyssey were "true." If only the facts were as 
simple as thatl But, alas, they aren't. 

On the other hand, even readers who have not yet read the 
great epic poet of Greece will be familiar with the stories, be 
they history or legend, which Homer wove into his poems. They 
will have heard how the Trojan Prince, Paris, stole the lovely 
Helen from her husband, Menelaiis of Sparta; of how Menelaiis 
and his brother Agamemnon, "King of Men," led the Achaean 
host to Troy and laid siege to it for ten years. The wrath of 
Achilles; the slaying of the Trojan hero, Hector; the stratagem 
of the Wooden Horse, planned by the cunning Odysseus, which 
led to the sack of Priam's city; the long return home of the much- 
enduring Odysseus, the Wanderer; all these are part of Europe's 
rich heritage of legend. In England alone poets from Chaucer to 
Louis MacNeice have drawn upon the Homeric themes and char- 
acters, as no doubt will writers yet unborn. For Homer, father of 
European literature, has entered to some extent into the thought 
and speech of every one of us, even those who have never con- 
sciously read a line by him. 



Less than a hundred years ago the only knowledge if it 
could be called such- of the early history of Greece was that ob- 
tainable from Greek mythology, and especially from the great 
epic poems of Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Practically 
everything before about 800 B.C. was regarded as legend. The 
historian George Grote, whose monumental History of Greece 
was published in 1846, could write in his Preface: 

... I begin the real history of Greece with the first recorded 
Olympiad, or 776 B.C. . . . For the truth is, that historical records, 
properly so called, do not begin until after this date; nor will any man 
who candidly considers the extreme paucity of attested facts for two 
centuries after 776 B.C. be astonished to learn that the state of Greece 
in 900, 1000, 1100, 1200, 1300, 1400 B.C., etc. or any earlier century 
which it may please chronologists to include in their computed gene- 
alogiescannot be described to him with anything like decent evi- 
dence . . . 

. . . The times which I thus set apart from the region of history 
are discernible only through a different atmosphere that of epic 
poetry and legend. To confound together these disparate matters, is, 
in my judgement, essentially unphilosophical. , . . 

Thus sternly wrote Mr. Grote, and justly, too, in the light 
of what was known at that time. For though the classical Greeks 
(600-300 B.C.) regarded much of their epics as literal history, 
there was nothing in them which a modern historian would be 
justified in regarding as evidence. True, the epics sometimes 
described individuals who could have been credible historical 
figures, whose actions often took place in a precise geographical 
setting; yet they were so intermixed with obvious myths and 
supernatural happenings as to make it almost impossible to 
recognize where legend ended and reality began. For instance, 
Odysseus, the Wanderer, during the earlier part of his journey 
home from Troy, follows a route which can be traced, island by 
island, on a modern map, and which proves Homer's knowledge 
of Aegean topography. But after a while the Wanderer wanders 
off the map into fairyland, to the island of Circe, to the home of 
the hideous Lestrygonians and the land of the Cyclopes, even to 
Hades itself, where only our imaginations can follow him. 

Of course the Odyssey the "first novel of Europe" being 


an obvious romance, might be expected to contain many elements 
of fairy tale. But even the sterner Iliad, which tells of the siege 
of Troy, and which the Greeks of classical times regarded as 
authentic history, has its mythical ingredients. The gods take 
sides in the war, appear to the heroes, and fight in both armies 
though usually disguised as human warriors. Some of the heroes 
are god-descended. Achilles is the son of Thetis, the sea nymph; 
Helen is the daughter of Zeus himself. Xanthus, one of Achilles' 
horses, has the power of human speech and warns his master of 
his impending death. But admittedly these are subordinate ele- 
ments in the story, which in the main is grimly and brilliantly 
realistic, and could only have been written by one who was per- 
sonally familiar with the Trojan Plain. 

Who was this great poet, whose works were thought by the 
classical Greeks to embody their early history? The historian 
Herodotus (c. 484-425 B.C.) believed that Homer had lived 
about four hundred years before his own time, that is, in about 
the ninth century B.C., though later authorities placed his date 
far back in the twelfth century (present-day opinion on the whole 
favors Herodotus' date). No real stories of his life existed, 
though many legends grew up around his name. Several places 
compete for the honor of being his birthplace Smyrna, Argos, 
Athens, Salamis, and Khios, but the last has the strongest claim. 
Tradition is insistent that he was an "Ionian" Greek that is, 
that he belonged to those Greeks who were driven out of the 
mainland by the invading Dorians (circa 1000 B.C.) and founded 
the Ionian colonies on the west coast of Asia Minor. 

One fact is certain: that Homer, whether he created his epics 
in the eighth, ninth, or tenth centuries before Christ, was making 
use of much more ancient material a store of myths, legends and 
folk tales which had come down to him from a remote past. We 
also know that much of this epic material which Homer used 
survived, side by side with the Homeric poems, into classical 
times. This can be proved by the fact that several legends and 
stories which Homer only glanced at were used by later poets and 
dramatists as fully developed epics or plays. Historians call this 
material, on which both Homer and later Greek poets drew, the 
Epic Cycle. 

Although I would not dare attempt to summarize the whole 


of the Iliad and the Odyssey, I think it might help those who 
have not read these epics to describe briefly those episodes which 
have a bearing on Schliemann's discoveries. 

The * Iliad, which is generally supposed to be the earlier 
poem, deals with an episode in the Trojan War the Wrath of 
Achilles and its tragic consequences. Its opening is tremendous: 

The Wrath of Achilles is my theme, that fatal wrath which, in ful- 
filment of the will of Zeus, brought the Achaeans so much suffering 
and sent the gallant souls of so many noblemen to Hades, leaving their 
bodies as carrion for the dogs and passing birds. Let us begin, goddess 
of song, with the angry parting that took place between Agamemnon 
King of Men, and the great Achilles son of Peleus. . . . 

Notice that Homer calls his Greeks "the Achaeans." This is 
the name he most often uses to describe them, though occa- 
sionally he calls them Danaans. Often they are described by the 
name of the district or island from which they come, e.g., the 
Locrians from Locris, the Arcadians "from the lands where 
Mount Cyllene lifts its peak" and so on. 

When the Iliad opens, the Achaeans are encamped beside 
their ships on the edge of the Trojan Plain. Before them lies 
King Priam's city of Troy, or Ilium, which they have unsuccess- 
fully besieged for nine years. (Troy can easily be identified on a 
modern map of Turkey. It lies on the coast of Asia Minor, near 
the entrance to the Dardanelles.) 

Agamemnon, "King of Men," is the leader of the Achaean 
host. He is comparable to a feudal overlord of the Middle Ages, 
exercising a loose suzerainty over his subordinate chiefs (though 
they also are called kings), but not having complete authority. 
In fact his authority is challenged in the very first book of the 
Iliad, when Achilles, King of the Myrmidons, and the greatest 
warrior in the Achaean host, heaps abuse on him for threatening 
to take from Achilles his slave girl, Briseis, part of his legitimate 
spoils of war. 

"You shameless schemer," he cried, "always aiming at a profitable 
deall How can you expect any of the men to give you loyal service 
when you send them on a raid or into battle? It was no quarrel with 
the Trojan spearmen that brought me here to fight. They have never 


done me any harm. They have never lifted cow or horse of mine, nor 
ravaged any crop that the deep soil of Phthia grows to feed her men; 
for the roaring seas and many a dark range of mountains lie between 
us. The truth is that we joined the expedition to please you; yes, you 
unconscionable cur, to get satisfaction from the Trojans for Menelaiis 
and yourself a fact which you utterly ignore." 

Menelaiis, King of Sparta, was Agamemnon's brother, and 
the ostensible cause of the war was the outrage offered to 
Menelaiis by Paris (sometimes called Alexander), son of King 
Priam of Troy. Entertained in Menelaiis's home at Sparta, Paris 
had seized the opportunity of his host's temporary absence to 
steal the affection of his wife, the lovely Helen, daughter of Zeus, 
and to take her with him to Troy. The legendary cause of this, 
though Homer only glances lightly at it, was Aphrodite, who, 
having been chosen by Paris as the most beautiful of the god- 
desses, promised him as a reward the loveliest woman in the 
world Helen of Sparta. Agamemnon, determined to avenge the 
insult to his brother and his family, called upon the Achaeans 
from many parts of Greece, and from the islands, to sail under 
his leadership to Troy and win Helen back. 

The Second Book of the Iliad contains the famous Catalogue 
of Ships, describing in considerable detail where the Achaean 
contingents came from; a long, and, to our minds, rather tedious 
list, though to Homer's hearers it was of great importance. But 
there is an interesting point concerning this catalogue, one which 
puzzled an earlier generation of scholars. Most of the towns and 
citadels which Homer describes as of great wealth and power 
were, in his own day, and in classical times, mere ruins, if they 
existed at all. For example: 

The citizens of Argos and Tiryns of the Great Walls; the men of 
Hermione and Asine, towns that embrace a deep gulf of the sea; and 
those from Troezen, from Eionae, and from vine-clad Epidaurus, with 
the Achaean youth of Aegina and Mases, were led by Diomedes of the 
loud war-cry. . . . 

And, most important of all: 

The troops that came from the great stronghold of Mycenae, from 
wealthy Corinth and the good town of Cleonae. . . . 


These, and others, the poet tells us: 

... in their hundred ships, King Agamemnon son of Atreus led. 
His following was by far the finest and most numerous. He was a 
proud man as he took his stand with his people, armed in gleaming 
bronze, the greatest captain of all, in virtue of his rank and as com- 
mander of by far the largest force. 

Yet, in the ninth century, when Homer wrote, Mycenae was of 
little importance, and in later classical times, when every Greek 
schoolboy knew and recited Homer, it was a ruin. So was "Min- 
yan Orchomenos," and "Tiryns of the Great Walls," and many 
another city which, according to the legends, was once rich and 

This fact puzzled some scholars, because there were, in sup- 
port of the legend that Agamemnon had lived at Mycenae, great 
walls which a later generation thought had been built by giants 
the Cyclopes; similarly at Tiryns there were these Cyclopean 
walls. Nevertheless most scholars inclined to the belief that the 
Homeric stories were folk myths and nothing more. 

To return to the Iliad: The quarrel between Agamemnon 
and Achilles ends in bitter rancor. Agamemnon, determined to 
assert his authority, takes Achilles's slave girl to replace the girl 
Chryseis, whom he has been forced to return to her father, 
Chryses. This aged man was a priest of Apollo, who had let loose 
a plague on the Greeks, because Agamemnon had stolen Chryses' 
daughter. Achilles, whilst refraining from a direct attack on 
Agamemnon, retires with his Myrmidons to their tents and re- 
fuses to take any further part in the battle. 

That day is coming," he tells Agamemnon, "when the Achaeans 
one and all will miss me sorely, and you in your despair will be power- 
less to help them as they fall in their hundreds to Hector, killer of 

In the Third Book the armies advance to meet each other, 
but Hector, principal warrior on the Trojan side, steps forward 
and proposes that his brother, Paris, should meet Menelaiis in 
single combat, whoever wins being entitled to Helen. A truce is 
declared and the two armies sit down opposite each other to watch 


the duel. Paris is defeated, but his guardian goddess, Aphrodite, 
saves him in the nick of time and spirits him back to the city, 
much to the disgust of both sides, since Paris is as unpopular 
with his own countrymen as he is with the Greeks. 

But the gods are adamant and, tempted by the goddess 
Athene, Pandarus, one of the Trojan allies, shoots an arrow at 
Menelaiis, wounding him and so breaking the truce. This time 
fighting breaks out in earnest. The gods themselves join in the 
battle, and the valiant Diomedes, an Achaean hero, even succeeds 
in felling the war god, Ares, besides wounding Aphrodite when 
she tries to rescue her son Aeneas. Hector and Paris return to the 
battlefield and Hector issues a challenge to any Greek to meet 
him in single combat. The great Telamonian Aias accepts the 
challenge, but the fight is indecisive, though tough, and ends with 
the combatants chivalrously exchanging gifts. Meanwhile 
Achilles continues to sulk in his tent. 

It is worth bearing in mind the methods of fighting described 
in the Iliad because they have a considerable bearing on the 
archaeological discoveries to be described later. In the period 
of classical Greece, e.g., in such battles as Marathon (490 B.C.) 
and Thermopylae (480 B.C.), the typical Greek soldier was the 
hoplite, clad, as Professor Gilbert Murray says, in Rise of the 
Greek Epic: 

... in solid metal from head to foot; helmet, breastplate, and 
backplate, small round shield, and greaves, all of metal. 

Now it is true that the Iliad is full of references to the round 
shield "plated in bronze/' to "the clash of men in bronze breast- 
plates," and "the flashing of bronze, men slaying and men slain." 
The Greeks of classical times, hearing such descriptions, would 
imagine the typical heavy armor of the hoplitae, such as you can 
often see represented on classical vase paintings or groups of 
classical statuary. Not only that, but, as Murray points out, some, 
though not all, of the tactics described suggest the close-forma- 
tion, tightly disciplined manoeuvres of the fifth-century warriors. 

The Trojans came on, like lines of waves on the sea, line behind 
line, flashing in bronze, together with their commanders. 


But there are other descriptions of methods of fighting which 
bear no resemblance to those of classical times, or even to those 
of Homer's own period, so far as these can be ascertained. For 
example, when the Greek hero, Telamonian Aias, goes to meet 
Hector in the above-mentioned duel, he carries a shield 

. . . like a tower, made of bronze and seven layers of leather. 
Tychius, the master-currier, who lived at Hyle, made this glittering 
shield for him with the hides of seven big bulls, which he overlaid 
with an eighth layer of bronze. Holding this shield before his breast, 
Telamonian Aias went right up to Hector before halting to defy him. 

Evidently this shield 'like a tower" covered the entire body, 
and was quite unlike any type of shield depicted in classical 
times, or even in the ninth century, when Homer lived. Where 
did the poet get his description? Scholars were puzzled. Nor was 
this the only reference to a leather body shield. In Book Four 
there is a passage describing Hector walking from the battlefield 
back to the town. 

As he walked, the dark leather rim of his bossed shield tapped 
him above and below, on the ankles and on the back of the neck. 

Obviously this would have been impossible if the hero had 
been carrying an ordinary round shield with an armband. Evi- 
dently he was wearing a large body shield slung over his shoul- 
ders by means of a leather baldric. 

And to take one final example, there is a scene in Book Fif- 
teen when Hector and his followers have forced the Achaeans 
right back to their ships, and are threatening to storm the wall 
which the besiegers have built to protect themselves. Here Hector 
slays many Greeks, among them one Periphetes, a Mycenaean. 

He had just turned to fly when he tripped against the rim of his 
shield which he carried to keep missiles off and which came down to 
his feet. Thrown off his balance, he fell backwards, and as he reached 
the ground his helmet rang loudly on his temples, at once attracting 
Hector's notice. . . . 

which was too bad for Periphetes. If he had been carrying a 
small round shield of the classical type or even of the ninth- 


century pattern, such an accident could not have happened. 
Where, asked the scholars, did Homer get the idea of these big 
cumbersome leather shields? And why were they mixed up with 
much more frequent references to shields of the more familiar 

There were other anachronisms, too. For instance, in 
Homer's time and afterwards, weapons, whether swords or 
spears, were almost invariably of iron. In the Iliad and the 
Odyssey, with one or two insignificant exceptions, weapons are of 
bronze. Iron is known, but is used almost entirely for tools. Again, 
the Homeric heroes use chariots, which do not seem to have been 
widely used in Homer's day and had passed out of fashion in 
classical times. 

To complete our very rapid review of the story, Agamem- 
non, worried by the Trojan success, sends an embassy to Achilles. 
It consists of the wily Odysseus, King of Ithaca and hero of the 
Odyssey, the aged Nestor, King of Pylos and "elder stateman" 
among the Achaeans, and the redoubtable Telamonian Aias, he 
of the great shield. They convey Agamemnon's promise to return 
Briseis, together with an enormous gift, as compensation for the 
insult Achilles has been offered, but the hero returns a contemptu- 
ous answer. It is not until the Trojans threaten the ships that 
Achilles takes notice. Even then, he only permits his beloved 
friend and squire, Patroclus, to borrow his armor and go out to 
the assistance of the hard-pressed Greeks. But Hector kills 
Patroclus and strips him of his armor. 

Only then does Achilles realize the tragic result of his own 
intransigence. In bitter rage, and re-equipped with dazzling new 
armor made by the god Hephaestus himself, he returns to the 
fight with his Myrmidons. The Trojans are hurled back, Achilles 
meets Hector in single combat, slays him beneath the walls of 
Troy and then drags the body in the dust, behind his chariot 
Every morning he drives the chariot, with its burden, round the 
pyre on which lies the corpse of Patroclus. He honors his dead 
friend with a great funeral, after which games are held. The 
heroes contend with each other in running, boxing, duelling with 
the spear, chariot racing, archery, wrestling and javelin throwing. 

The greatest moment of the Iliad is undoubtedly the end, 
when the aged King Priam comes at night to the Achaean camp 
to ransom the body of his dead son. It is one of the most moving 


passages in the literature of the world, and I make no apology 
for quoting again from Mr. Rieu's effective translation. Kneeling 
before Achilles, the slayer of his son, Priam says: 

Achilles, fear the gods, and be merciful to me, remembering your 
own father, though I am even more entitled to compassion, since I 
have brought myself to do a thing that no one else on earth has done 
I have raised to my lips the hand of the man who killed my son. 

Priam had set Achilles thinking of his own father and brought him 
to the edge of tears. Taking the old man's hand, he gently put him 
from him; and overcome by their memories they both broke down. 
Priam, crouching at Achilles' feet, wept bitterly for man-slaying Hec- 
tor, and Achilles wept for his father, and then again for Patroclus. 
The house was filled with sounds of their lamentation. . . . 

The other great epic, the Odyssey, describes the long-de- 
layed, arduous return of the "much-enduring" Odysseus to his 
home after the sack of Troy. In the Odyssey we also learn what 
happened to some of the other Achaean heroes who figure in the 
Iliad. We meet Menelaiis, back again at his palace in Sparta, 
with the repentant Helen beside him. No longer the ferrune fatale, 
she is now the perfect housewife: 

. . . Helen with her ladies came down from her lofty perfumed 
room, looking like Artemis with her golden distaff. Adreste drew up 
for her a comfortable chair; Alcippe brought a rug of the softest wool; 
while Phylo carried her silver work-basket, a gift from Alcandre, wife 
of Polybus, who lived in Egyptian Thebes, where houses are furnished 
in the most sumptuous fashion. This man had given Menelaiis two 
silver baths, a pair of three-legged cauldrons, and ten talents in gold; 
while in addition his wife gave Helen beautiful gifts for herself, 
including a golden spindle and a basket that ran on castors and was 
made of silver finished with a rim of gold. . . .* 

It is in the Odyssey that we learn what happened to Aga- 
memnon, King of Men, on his return to Mycenae. Old Nestor, 
speaking to Telemachus, son of Odysseus, describes the treachery 
of Aegisthos, Agamemnon's cousin, who seduced Clytemnestra, 
the King's wife, while he was away at Troy. 

1 Of this passage a sceptical archaeologist friend writes: "I know people 
often say that Helen in die Odyssey is reformed and domesticated but she 
seems to need an awful lot of handmaidens to bring in her knitting." 


While we that were beleaguering Troy toiled at heroic tasks, he 
spent his leisured days, right in the heart of Argos where the horses 
graze, besieging Agamemnon's wife with his seductive talk. At first 
Queen Clytemnestra turned a deaf ear to his dishonourable schemes. 
She was a sensible woman, and beside, she had a man with her, a 
minstrel by profession, to whom Agamemnon when he left for Troy 
had given strict orders to watch over his queen. But when the fatal 
day appointed for her conquest came, Aegisthos took this minstrel 
to a desert isle, left him there as carrion for the birds of prey, and 
carried Clytemnestra off to his own house, fond lover, willing 
dame. . . . 

In another part of the Odyssey, Menelaiis completes the 
tale of his brother's doom. 

Agamemnon set foot on the soil of his father with a happy heart, 
and as he touched it, kissed his native earth. The warm tears rolled 
down his cheeks, he was so glad to see his land again. But his arrival 
was observed by a spy in a watch tower, whom Aegisthos had had the 
cunning to post there. . . . Aegisthos set his brains to work and laid 
a clever trap. He selected twenty of his best soldiers from the town, 
left them in ambush, and after ordering a banquet to be prepared in 
another part of the building set out in a horse-chariot to bring home 
the King, with his heart full of ugly thoughts. Agamemnon, never 
guessing that he was going to his doom, came up with him from the 
coast, and Aegisthos feasted and killed him as a man might fell an ox 
in its manger. Not a single one of the King's following was left, nor 
of Aegisthos' company either. They were killed in the palace to a man. 

The classical poet Aeschylus, whose superb tragedy, Aga- 
memnon, is based on the same theme, makes the guilty Queen 
even less sympathetic. According to his version, Clytemnestra 
was herself the slayer of the King, Aegisthos merely her accom- 
plice. Such was the tragedy enacted at Mycenae. 

Before ending this chapter I must apologize to all lovers .of 
Homer for making such a scanty offering from the great man's 
table, though I hope it may at least tempt others to enjoy the 
full Homeric feast. I shall not attempt at this stage to discuss the 
so-called "Homeric Problem" whether the poems are the con- 
scious and deliberate creation of one man, or represent the work 
of generations of poets working within a common tradition. All 
I wish to emphasize now is the extraordinary realism of Homer, 


and the problem which this set the scholars of the last century. 
Although the epics, especially the Odyssey, contain much that is 
magical and supernatural, their descriptions of everyday life, of 
houses (from palaces to a swineherds hut), of farming and sea- 
manship, of warfare, of the domestic occupations of women, of 
clothes and jewellery and works of art, are so intensely real that 
even the most sceptical professors of the early nineteenth century 
found it hard to understand how the poet could have imagined 
them all. 

Homer's geography, too, shows a detailed knowledge, not 
only of mainland Greece, but of the Aegean islands, of capes, 
harbors and sea routes, of Syria and Asia Minor. In describing the 
Trojan Plain, he makes the reader see its physical features: the 
winding river Scamander and its companion, the Simois; the two 
springs near the city, one warm, one cold; the fig tree near the 
Scaean Gate; and, dominating it all, towering Mount Ida, 2 where 
Zeus sat, watching the battle. 

Yet the fact remained that when George Grote published his 
History of Greece in 1846, there was, apart from these topo- 
graphic details, not a scrap of material evidence not one frag- 
ment of a building, piece of pottery, jewellery, or armor to prove 
that the world which Homer described had ever existed outside 
his imagination. And the academic world nodded their heads ap- 
provingly when they read Grote's grave summing up of the Tro- 
jan War. 

Though literally believed, reverentially cherished, and numbered 
among the gigantic phenomena of the past, by the Grecian public, 
it is in the eyes of modern enquiry essentially a legend and nothing 
more. If we are asked whether it be not a legend embodying portions 
of historical matter, and raised upon a basis of truth ... if we are 
asked whether there was not really some such historical Trojan war as 
this, our answer must be, that as the possibility of it cannot be denied, 
so neither can the reality of it be affirmed. We possess nothing but the 
ancient epic itself without any independent evidence. . . . 

But in the year Grote's book appeared there was a young man 
working in a shipping office in Amsterdam, who was destined to 
make the great scholar's words irrevocably out of date. 

* Not to be confused with the other Mount Ida in Crete. 



A SEVEN-YEAR-OLD boy, in the dress of 1829, sits at a table in a 
heavily furnished room. A large book lies before him, in which 
he is completely absorbed. It is a Christmas gift from the boy's 
father, the Protestant parson of a little town in Mecklenburg, 
North Germany. The work Jerrer's Universal History is almost 
as heavy as the child, but that does not worry him as he pores 
over an engraving which shows the walls of burning Troy. 
Through the Scaean Gate comes Aeneas, bearing on his back 
his aged father, Anchises. 

The boy turns to his father, half dozing by the fire, and says, 
"Father, did you tell me that Troy had completely gone?" 

"I did." 

"And that there's nothing of it left at all?" 

"Nothing at all." 

"But Jerrer must have seen Troy, or how could he have 
drawn it here?" 

"Heinrich, that is simply a fanciful picture." 

The boy looks more closely at the drawing. Still he is not 

"Father, did Troy have great walls like these in the picture?" 


"Then" triumphantly "they can't all have gone. Some 
must still be there, hidden under the ground. I'd love to dig 
them up. Father, some day shall I go and dig them up?" 

The elder Schliemann, a disillusioned man, nods wearily. 

"I shouldn't be surprised. And now be quiet. I want to 

Anyone who is inclined to regard that incident as too fanciful 
need only turn to page three of Schliemann's llios, where he will 
find it described by the great man himself. There is no need to 



doubt its essential truth, for it has the unmistakable Schliemann 
characteristics which reveal themselves throughout his life: a ro- 
mantic preoccupation with the past, inflexible determination, and 
complete literal-mindedness. He seems to have inherited the first 
trait from his father. 

Though my father was neither a scholar nor an archaeologist he 
had a passion for ancient history. He often told me with warm enthu- 
siasms of the tragic fate of Herculaneum and Pompeii, and seemed 
to consider him the luckiest of men who had the means and the time 
to visit the excavations that were going on there. 

But Schliemann the elder was also a drunkard, a sceptic and 
a lecher, who took only a sporadic interest in his six children, and 
although he taught Heinrich Latin, the boy had to leave school 
at the age of fourteen and become an apprentice in a grocer's 
shop in the small town of Furstenburg. 

I was engaged [he wrote] from five in the morning until eleven 
at night, and had not a moment's leisure for study. Moreover I rapidly 
forgot the little that I had learnt in childhood; but I did not lose the 
love of learning; indeed I never lost it, and, as long as I live, I shall 
never forget the evening when a drunken miller came into the 
shop. . . . 

The miller, whose name was Niederhoffer, was a failed Protes- 
tant clergyman who had taken to drink, which, however: 

. . . had not made him forget his Homer; for on the evening that 
he entered the shop he recited to us about a hundred lines of the poet, 
observing the rhythmic cadence of the verses. Although I did not un- 
derstand a syllable, the melodious sound of the words made a deep 
impression on me. . . . From that moment I never ceased to pray to 
God that by His grace I might yet have the happiness of learning 

Troy and Homer became an obsession with him. 

What weighs upon our heart, be it joy or sorrow [he writes in his 
portentous way], always finds utterance from our lips, especially in 
childhood; and so it happened that I talked of nothing else to my 


playfellows, but of Troy and of the mysterious and wonderful things 
in which our village abounded. I was continually laughed at by every- 
one except two young girls, Louise and Minna Meincke, the daughters 
of a fanner in Zahren, a village only a mile distance from Ankershagen 
[Schliemann's home]. 

With one of these girls, Minna, he carried on a curious child- 
hood romance which seems to have consisted mainly of visits to 
all the antiquities in the neighborhood, such as the medieval 
castle of Ankershagen, where a robber knight named Henning 
von Holstein was said to have buried treasure. 

Minna showed me the greatest sympathy and entered into all my 
vast plans for the future. ... It was agreed between us that as soon 
as we were grown up we would marry, and then at once set to work 
to explore all the mysteries of Ankershagen; excavating ... the vast 
treasures hidden by Henning, then Henning's sepulchre, and lastly 
Troy; nay we could imagine nothing pleasanter than to spend all our 
lives in digging for relics of the past. 

Fantastic childhood ambitions are common enough, even 
among ordinary men who forget them as they grow older. But 
to Heinrich Schliemann they remained real and permanent. At 
the age of nine he lost touch with Minna, but five years later, just 
before he left Ankershagen to work in the grocer's shop, he met 
her again, and the extraordinary couple (both only fourteen) 
burst into floods of tears and fell into each other's arms. 

I was now sure that Minna still loved me, and this stimulated my 
ambition [he wrote]. Nay, from that moment I felt withiri me a 
boundless energy, and was sure that with unremitting zeal I could 
raise myself in the world and show that I was worthy of her. I only 
implored God to grant that she might not marry before I had attained 
an independent position. 

This would have been sheer rhodomontade in most men. 
Schliemann meant every word of it. And though he lost his 
childhood Minna, he spent more than half his life looking for a 
substitute; nor could he begin his great archaeological work 
until he had found one, thirty years later. 


In the meantime he lived a life of fantastic adventure, such 
as only a romantic novelist could have invented. His father's 
never-ending amours and his outbreaks of drunken violence made 
life at home impossible. Heinrich broke away and got a job in 
Hamburg as a grocer's assistant at nine pounds per annum, but 
his weak frame was unequal to the work. One day, trying to shift 
a heavy cask, he injured his chest and spat blood. He tried an- 
other job but his weak lungs forced him to give it up. Still deter- 
mined not to return home, he next became a boy on a small 
sailing brig, the Dorothea, trading between Hamburg and Vene- 
zuela, but the ship was wrecked off the Dutch coast. 

After tossing for nine hours in a small open boat in a fierce 
storm, Heinrich and his eight companions were thrown by 
the surf onto a bank close to the shore of the River Texel. 

In Amsterdam, exhausted and starving, he feigned illness 
and was taken to a hospital, and while there wrote to a ship- 
broker friend, Mr. Wendt in Hamburg, explaining his situation. 
The letter arrived when Wendt was entertaining friends. A sub- 
scription was immediately raised and the delighted Schliemann 
received the sum of 240 florins (20 pounds). Soon after, through 
the help of the Prussian Consul General, he found a situation in 
the office of an Amsterdam merchant, F. C. Quien, stamping 
bills of exchange and carrying letters to and from the post office. 
From Quien he joined the office of an old-established firm of 
merchants, B. H. Schroder & Co., as "correspondent and book- 

From the moment he entered Schroder's office, his fortunes 
began to improve. Before, he had been stumbling and flounder- 
ing; now he had two valuable assets, a post in which he could 
exercise his talents, and an employer who had the wit to perceive 
and make use of them. For the shy young amateur antiquarian 
from Ankershagen, the Homer-loving grocer's assistant, discov- 
ered that he had a brilliant flair for business. 

He did not come to Schroder's unprepared. While working 
as a messenger boy for Quien, he had applied himself to the 
study of modern languages. Out of his annual salary of thirty-two 
pounds, he devoted half to payments for books and lessons, and 
lived on the remaining half "in a wretched garret without a fire, 


where I shivered with cold in winter and was scorched by the 
heat in summer." He learned each language by a unique method 
of his own, which consisted in reading a great deal aloud, without 
making a translation, taking a lesson every day, and constantly 
writing essays on subjects which interested him, correcting these 
under the supervision of a teacher, and repeating in the next 
lesson what had been corrected on the previous day. 

When he applied for a post with B. H. Schroder & Co., they 
were astonished to find that this pale, awkward youth of twenty- 
two, with his large head perched on his small body, had com- 
mand of seven languages. Oddly, however, the seven did not 
include Greek. Deliberately he left that to the last for fear that 
"the powerful spell of this noble language might take too great 
a hold on me and endanger my commercial interests." First he 
must make money. Afterwards he would be free to pursue the 
passion of his life. 

Within a few months of his arrival Schroder saw that young 
Schliemann had all the makings of a first-class merchant. He was 
shrewd, tireless in pursuit of business, and endowed with a 
prodigious memory and great capacity for detail. Behind these 
qualities, supplying the driving force, was a consuming ambition 
to become rich. Riches he must have, he saw clearly, not for their 
own sake, not for ostentatious display, but because they could 
give him security, leisure and freedom to pursue his chosen 
interests. And, of course, once he had acquired wealth, he could 
return to Mecklenburg and marry Minna. 

He was promoted rapidly. At the age of twenty-four he 
decided to learn Russian and within six weeks was writing busi- 
ness letters in that language, and was able to talk in their own 
tongue to Russian indigo merchants visiting Amsterdam. Schro- 
der's did a large trade as indigo exporters, especially with Russia. 
Schliemann, no longer a clerk, was sent by his employers to St. 
Petersburg and later to Moscow as their representative. In Russia 
he throve so successfully that, within two years of his arrival, he 
was registered as a merchant in the First Guild and the banks had 
advanced him credits amounting to fifty-seven thousand roubles. 
Elated with his success, he wrote to a friend of the Meincke 
family asking him to see Minna on his behalf and ask for her in 


But to my sorrow, I received a month later a heartrending answer, 
that she was just married. I considered this disappointment at the time 
as the greatest disaster which could have befallen me, and I was for 
some time utterly unfit for any occupation and sick in bed. ... I now 
saw such a brilliant chance before me; but how could I think of real- 
izing it without her participation? 

It was twelve years since he had seen her. 

To a man of Schliemann's type, there was only one way 
of dealing with such an emotional wound by work, which, 
while it could not kill the pain, would at least dull it. Soon he 
had become a merchant in his own right, and was approached by 
one of the richest businessmen in St. Petersburg, who offered to 
put his nephew into partnership with the German, with a backing 
of one hundred thousand roubles. For the moment Schliemann 
declined. He could afford to bide his time. 

He continued to amass money, traveling from capital to 
capital Berlin, Paris, London always staying at the best hotels 
(though in the cheapest rooms), fascinated by the new industrial 
age which he saw growing up around him. He loved machines 
and speed fascinated him, though even the new railways were 
too slow for his restless, impatient spirit. Occasionally he sought 
solace in the past. While in London on business he would take a 
few hours off to visit the British Museum. "I saw the Egyptian 
things, which interested me more than anything I have ever 
seen." Then back to indigo shipments and order books, and the 
life of hotels, packet boats and railways. By the time he was 
thirty he had acquired a huge fortune, and began to consider 

But though shrewd and practical in his business affairs, 
Schliemann was extremely awkward in his relations with women. 
He feared with good cause that women might now seek to 
many him for his money; he was conscious of his plainness, 
jealous of the handsome young officers who danced attendance 
on the women whom he favored. He was always imagining him- 
self in love then doubting his judgment. "I only see the virtues 
and never the failings of the fair sex/' he wrote to his sister. And 
when, finally, he married Katherina, niece of a business acquaint- 
ance, the marriage soon proved a failure. She was intelligent, but 


practical and unimaginative; quite incapable of understanding 
his impetuous, romantic nature, in which there was still so much 
of the ardor of a boy. "You do not love me, and therefore have no 
sympathy for my good fortune, nor do you share my joys and 
sorrows, but think of nothing but die gratification of your own 
desires and caprices," he wrote to her only eighteen months after 
the marriage. Yet this unfortunate union survived fifteen years 
of quarrels, partings, reconciliations and violent outbursts of 
hatred; and Katherina bore him a son and two daughters. 

Meanwhile, in 1851, he paid his first visit to America, ac- 
quired American citizenship, opened a bank in California during 
the Gold Rush, bought gold dust and casually scooped another 
fortune, almost without meaning to. His main purpose in visiting 
the United States was to settle the financial affairs of his brother 
Louis, who had died of typhus in Sacramento City; the gold-dust 
fortune was incidental. Schliemann also caught typhus, and di- 
rected the affairs of his bank from a bed in the backroom, while 
the prospectors queued up with their bags of dust in the front. 
Although his life was despaired of, he recovered and returned to 

By the age of thirty-three he was master of fifteen languages; 
in addition to the seven with which he had equipped himself ten 
years earlier, he now had Polish, Swedish, Norwegian, Slovenian, 
Danish, Latin, and modern and ancient Greek. Yet he despaired 
of ever enjoying the life of scholarship and learning which he 
had longed for as a very young man. "I am lacking in the ground- 
ing and fundamentals of learning," he wrote despairingly. "I can 
never become a scholar." Yet after the week's work in his office 
he would sit up, on Sundays, from early morning till late at 
night translating Sophocles into modern Greek. And now at last 
he could read his beloved Homer in the original. 

The vision of his childhood never left him; he was still de- 
termined to dig at Troy, and believed that there he would find 
Homer's city. To this end he studied and memorized the great 
epics, reading them as history rather than as poetry. Schliemann 
approached Homer with the same unquestioning faith with 
which the literalist regards the Bible. If Homer said so, it was 
so. But many years were to pass before he could put his beliefs 
to the test. 


Seven years later he made an extensive tour of the Middle 
East, travelling across the desert from Cairo to Jerusalem, visiting 
Petra in Trans-Jordan and learning yet another language 
Arabic. On this journey he is believed to have visited Mecca 
disguised as an Arab, and even had himself circumcised as an 
extra precaution. 

His second visit to America was in 1868, when he was forty- 
six and already thinking of giving up his business affairs. On his 
return he made yet another attempt to be reconciled to his wife, 
after one of their periodic estrangements, even buying and fur- 
nishing for her a magnificent house in Paris. But it was in vain. 
Her family disliked him, and supported her in opposing his plan 
to give the children a German education. Katherina stayed in 
Russia and sent only bitter replies to his pleading letters. In 
despair the unhappy, homeless man set off on another of his 
restless journeys across Europe, journeys which were yielding 
him less and less delight. But this time he turned to Greece, and 
set foot for the first time on Homeric soil, on the rocky island of 
Ithaca, home of Odysseus, the Wanderer. 

Peace and delight came to him there. Although he had come 
to Ithaca at the height of summer, so great was his enthusiasm 
that, in his own words, "I forgot heat and thirst. . . . Now I 
was investigating the neighbourhood, reading in the Odyssey the 
stirring scenes enacted there, now admiring the splendid pano- 

And, being Schliemann, of course he had to dig. Visiting the 
so-called "Castle of Odysseus," he hired workmen and dug up 
vases containing human ashes, together with a sacrificial knife 
and a few clay idols. He went away quite happy, believing he had 
found the ashes of Odysseus and Penelope and their descendants. 
From Ithaca he went on to the Peloponnese, paid a brief visit to 
Mycenae, then crossed over to the Dardanelles and rode across 
the Plain of Troy. These visits, though brief, had been enough to 
whet his appetite. From then onwards he began to make plans 
to retire from commerce and devote the rest of his life to ex- 
cavation. He had the money, the leisure and the opportunity. But 
something very essential was missing the companionship of the 
woman with whom he "could imagine nothing pleasanter than to 
spend all our lives in digging for relics of the past." 


When he returned to Paris at the end of the year, he had at 
last made up his mind to obtain a divorce. To do so, he decided, 
it would be best to go to America, where the divorce procedure 
was simpler than that obtaining in Europe. But, in that winter of 
1868, surrounded by gay company but lonely at heart, he remem- 
bered an old friend, a priest named Vimpos who had taught him 
Greek in St. Petersburg, and was now Archbishop of Athens. 
To Vimpos, Schliemann opened his heart in what must have been 
the strangest and most moving letter that reverend gentleman 
had ever received. For in it, Schliemann, the forty-six-year-old 
millionaire, asked the Archbishop to find him a Greek wife. 

I swear to you, by the bones of my mother, that I will direct my 
whole mind and energies to making my future wife happy. . . . Here 
I am constantly in the company of witty and beautiful women, who 
would be very willing to heal my sufferings and make much of me if 
they knew I was thinking of a divorce. But, my friend, the flesh is 
weak, and I am afraid to fall in love with a Frenchwoman, lest I 
should be unlucky once again. 

Therefore I beg you to enclose with your answer the portrait of 
some beautiful Greek woman. ... I entreat you; choose fo. me a 
wife of the same angelic character as your married sister. She should 
be poor, but well educated; she must be enthusiastic about Homer and 
about the rebirth of my beloved Greece. It does not matter whether 
she knows foreign languages or not. But she should be of the Greek 
type, with black hair, and, if possible, beautiful. But my main require- 
ment is a good and loving heart. . . . 

In the spring of the following year, while Schliemann was 
in Indianapolis waiting for his divorce, Vimpos's reply arrived, 
with a photograph of a classically beautiful girl of sixteen 
named Sophia Engastromenos. The German was entranced, but 
under no illusions. There is a lovely humility in the letter he 
wrote to his sister concerning his plans. 

I intend, if everything goes well, to go to Athens in July. ... I 
shall, however, only marry her if she is interested in learning, for I 
think that it is only possible for a beautiful young girl to love and 
honour an old man if she is enthusiastic about learning, wherein he is 
much farther advanced than she. 


But in August, when he arrived in Athens, any such doubts 
were set at rest. Not only was Sophia more beautiful than her 
photograph had suggested, but she was modest and sweet- 
natured, besides being able to answer satisfactorily his catechism, 
which included such questions as, "In what year did the Emperor 
Hadrian come to Athens?" and, "What passages of Homer have 
you by heart?" They were married, and on his honeymoon the 
bridegroom wrote: 

Sophia is a splendid wife, who could make any man happy, for, 
like all Greek women, she has a kind of divine reverence for her hus- 
band. . . . She loves me as a Greek, with passion, and I love her no 
less. I speak only Greek to her, which is the most beautiful language 
in the world. 

After forty years the dream which had haunted Schliemann 
at Ankershagen, and which he had wanted to share with his 
childhood sweetheart, Minna Meincke, was coming true. In the 
following spring he was making preliminary excavations at Troy, 
and a year later his eighteen-year-old wife joined him at his 
camp near the hill of Hissarlik. Their joint adventure had begun. 



Passing the lookout and the windswept fig-tree and 
keeping some way from the wall, they sped along the cart- 
track, and so came to the two lovely springs that are the 
sources of Scamander's eddying stream. In one of these the 
water comes up hot; steam rises from it and hangs about like 
smoke above a blazing fire. But the other, even in summer, 
gushes up as cold as hail or freezing snow or water that has 
turned to ice. . . . l 

THOSE "two lovely springs," described so minutely by Homer, 
intrigued and puzzled nineteenth-century visitors to Troy long 
before Schliemann came. For he was far from being the first 
to seek the site of Priam's city. From the eighteenth century on- 
wards the inhabitants had become accustomed to the sight of 
learned gentlemen from Europe plunging thermometers into the 
hillside springs in the hope of finding the two which Homer had 
described, but the results had not been very satisfactory. The 
only place at which two springs of differing temperatures could 
be found was the village of Bounarbashi, and even there the 
difference was only a matter of a few degrees. None the less, for 
some time this village, and the rocky hill of Bali Dagh behind 
it, were considered to be the site of Homer's Ilium. Bounarbashi 
stands at the southern extremity of the Plain of Troy, and the 
rocky heights behind it do strongly suggest at first sight the 
obvious place for a citadel. 

But there was another possible site, the hill of Hissarlik, 
much nearer the sea, and from 1820 onwards a number of 
scholars supported its claim, though it was much less spectacular 
than the towering Bali Dagh; and it did not possess the "hot and 
cold" springs. 

1 The Iliad, Book XXII. 



Schliemann, who had been over the ground in 1868, Iliad in 
hand, had decided against Bounarbashi and for Hissarlik. After 
all, had not Homer described Achilles's chasing Hector three 
times round the wall of Troy? an impossible feat if the town 
had been perched on the edge of Bali Dagh, but feasible at 

In addition to this [he wrote], the distance of Bounarbashi from 
the Hellespont is, in a straight line, eight miles, while all the indica- 
tions of the Iliad seem to prove that the distance between Ilium and 
the Hellespont was very short, hardly exceeding three miles. 

As for the hot and cold springs, he had tested those at 
Bounarbashi and found, not two, but thirty-four, "all at a uniform 
temperature of 62 degrees Farenheit." 

No, Hissarlik must be the place. Near it, in historic times, 
had stood the Hellenic, and later Roman, town of Novum Ilium 
"New Troy" ruins of which still survived. This was the city 
which the later Greeks and Romans had built on what they be- 
lieved was the traditional site of Priam's "sacred Ilios." Alexander 
the Great himself had offered at its temple before marching on 
to conquer the East. Historical tradition, geography and, above 
all, the testimony of the poems themselves all combined to con- 
vince the German that under Hissarlik lay Homer's Troy. There 
it stood, the mysterious mound, rising 162 feet above the scanty 
ruins of the classical city. Other investigators had scratched its 
surface, but now, for the first time, Heinrich Schliemann was 
going to attack it. 

From September to November, 1871, eighty workmen, under 
Schliemann's direction, drove a deep trench into the face of the 
steep northern slope, and dug down to a depth of thirty-three feet 
below the surface of the hill. Winter compelled him to give up, 
but in March he was back again with Sophia, and this time he 
increased his labor force to 150, and brought with him "the 
very best English wheelbarrows, pickaxes, and spades . . , pro- 
vided by my honoured friends Messrs. John Henry Schroder & 
Co. of London," together with "three overseers and an engineer, 
to make maps and plans." He also built on top of Hissarlik a 
wooden house, with three rooms and a kitchen. 

Remember that when Schliemann began this monumental 


work he had no previous experience to guide him, nor could 
he draw upon the experience of other field archaeologists, be- 
cause nothing on this scale had ever been attempted. At that 
time there was no recognized technique of excavation. The 
modern archaeological student, trained, long before he is allowed 
near a site, in the careful methods which have left even Hogarth 
and Pitt-Rivers far behind, shudders when he reads of Schlie- 
mann's methods. His great trench drove through the successive 
strata of the mound, and when he came to a building of relatively 
late date, impeding access to the lower levels, which alone inter- 
ested him, he did not wait, as would a modern excavator, to 
photograph and record it, but demolished it forthwith. 

At a later date, under the guidance of his brilliant young 
assistant, Dorpfeld, he learned to be more patient and scientific; 
yet ruthless though his methods were at first, there is no doubt 
that his instinct was right. For, as he dug into the mound, he 
discovered that there was not only one Troy but many Troys; 
walls stood upon earlier walls, and below them older walls still. 
He could not have hoped to have uncovered the whole of each 
city in turn before digging down to the next Believing that the 
Troy he sought Homer's Troy must lie very deep, his only 
course was to cut down through the strata like taking a slice out 
of a layer cake. 

His young wife was at his side during the long days when 
he toiled in the trench; and at night, in their hut on top of the 
mound, her delicate fingers helped him to sort out and classify 
the fragments of pottery, clay idols, fragments of weapons and 
tools, which they had sifted from the soil. It was a far more 
difficult, perplexing and unrewarding task than Schliemann had 
dreamed of, nor did the climate make it easier. Summer brought 
dust, flies, and a sultry heat; snakes slid down from the roof of the 
hut and had to be killed; mosquitoes put Heinrich down with 
malaria, though Sophia escaped it. The next winter a freezing 
blast from the north "blew with such violence through the chinks 
in our house-walls . . . that we were not even able to light our 
lamps in the evening, and although we had fire on the hearth, yet 
the thermometer showed nine degrees of frost." 

In the spring of 1873 he wrote, "The leaves are already 


beginning to burst on the trees, and the Trojan plain is covered 
with spring flowers. For the last fortnight we have been hearing 
the croaking of millions of frogs, and the storks returned a week 
ago." And he complained of "the hideous screeching of the in- 
numerable owls that nest in the holes of my trenches. There is 
something weird and horrible about their screeching; it is unbear- 
able, especially at night." 

This was the beginning of the Schliemanns' third season 
at Troy. By now several huge cuttings and platforms had been 
driven into the hill and thousands of tons of earth had been 
removed. There, undoubtedly, were the remains of several pre- 
historic and later cities Schliemann discerned seven but which 
was Priam's Troy? The excavator knew that the traditional date 
of the Trojan War, as calculated by the ancient writers, was 
round about 1180 B.C., but in 1873 there was no convenient sys- 
tem of comparative dating by pottery, 2 and Schliemann had no 
means of telling which of the cities had been destroyed in the 
twelfth century. Yet he firmly believed that, somewhere in that 
bewildering tangle of walls some built on top of each other, 
some separated by layers of debris lay the city he had sought 
so long and painfully. Surely he would recognize it from Homer's 
own description? He must look for the remains of the Scaean 
Gate above which the aged King Priam had sat with his coun- 

Old age had brought their fighting days to an end, but they were 
excellent speakers, those Trojan counsellors, sitting there on the 
tower, like the cicadas perched on a tree in the woods, chirping de- 
lightfully. . . . 

Somewhere, too, surely, were the ruins of Priam's Palace, wherein 
had stood the coffers from which the old King had taken the 
precious objects to ransom his son's body. 

He also weighed and took ten talents of gold; and he took two 
shining tripods, four cauldrons and a very lovely cup, which the Thra- 
cians had given him when he went to them on an embassy. . . . 

1 He could, of course, recognize that pottery which was unlike any be- 
longing to the historical perioos must almost certainly be prehistoric, but 
whether early, middle or kte he had no means of knowing. 


But did any of the walls he had uncovered look as if they 
had belonged to the mighty city the poet had described? Only 
those in the higher strata; and this perplexed and saddened 
Schliemann, who argued that, as Homer's city was so ancient, it 
must lie near the bottom of the mound. 

As it was my object to excavate Troy, which I expected to find in 
one of the lower cities, I was forced to demolish many interesting ruins 
in the upper strata; as, for example, at a depth of twenty feet below 
the surface, the ruins of a prehistoric building ten feet high, the walls 
of which consisted of hewn blocks of limestone perfectly smooth and 
cemented with clay. 

And again, during the same excavation, in May, 1872, he 
had "brought to light, near the surface, a pretty bastion, com- 
posed of large blocks of limestone, which may date from the 
time of Lysimachus." Though the bastion was of Homeric pro- 
portions, the fact that it was near the surface damned it for 
Schliemann, who could not conceive that it was earlier than the 
third century B.C. (Lysimachus was one of Alexander's generals, 
360-281 B.C.). 

Yet the lower strata were disappointing; much of them con- 
sisted of rough, ill-built walls and mean dwellings containing 
poor pottery and sometimes stone implements. However, the 
layers were not clearly defined, but overlapped in different parts 
of the site, so it was not always easy to decide which were the 
earlier strata and which were the later. In one place, on the 
south side of the hill, Schliemann had made a more promising 
discovery, a great mass of masonry, consisting of two distinct 
walls, each about fifteen feet broad and twenty feet h>gh, built 
close together and founded on the rock at a depth of forty-six 
feet below the surface. These he called "the Great Tower," 
though admitting that "they may originally have been intended 
by their builders for a different purpose." 

In the middle of March, 1873, Schliemann began a large 
excavation to the west of this so-called "Great Tower." After 
digging down through the remains of a late Greek house, then 
through a layer of debris, the workmen uncovered what appeared 
to be a well-paved street, seventeen feet wide, running down 
abruptly in a southwesterly direction towards the plain. This 


street, the excavator decided, must at one time have led to a 
large building within the city: 

I therefore immediately set 100 men to dig through the ground 
lying in front of it in that direction. I found the street covered to a 
height of from 7 to 10 feet with yellow, red, or black wood-ashes, 
mixed with thoroughly burnt and often partly-vitrified fragments of 
bricks and stones. Above this thick layer of debris I came upon the 
ruins of a large building composed of stones cemented with earth. . . . 

Nearby, in a northeasterly direction, he brought to light two 
large gateways, standing twenty feet apart, in front of which 
lay a mass of calcined rubbish, from seven to ten feet deep, 
which, Schliemann thought, had fallen from the burning walls 
of his Great Tower "which must once have crowned the gates.* 

The impatient child in Schliemann was always stronger 
than the cool-brained archaeologist. He had tried hard to find 
what he wished to find, and now, after three arduous years, it 
seemed that his faith had been justified. Without pausing to 
check his deductions, or to consult the opinions of other scholars, 
he announced to the world that he had discovered the Scaean 
Gate and the Palace of Priam. 

Many of the professional scholars, particularly the Germans, 
had been opposed to Schliemann's excavations. For more than 
a century they and their predecessors had theorized, from the 
depth of their study chairs, over the probable site of Troy; but 
not one had gone out to dig there. And now, here was this auda- 
cious merchant, without academic training, a lover of publicity 
(which, as scholars, they pretended to hate), hasty and inexact 
in his methods, ruthlessly tearing down the remains of classical 
buildings in an insane search for a city which had probably never 
existed outside a poet's imagination. Worst of all, his naive belief 
in the historicity of Homer had led him to announce that he had 
found the Palace of Priam a King for whose historical existence 
there was not a shadow of proof! This was not scholarship, but 
sensational journalism. Academic pens were dipped in acid. 
Schliemann, behind his apparent triumph, was secretly discour- 
aged by these attacks. In May he wrote to his brother: 

We have been digging here for three years with a hundred and 
fifty workmen . . . and have dragged away 250,000 cubic metres of 


debris and have collected in the depths of Ilium a fine museum of 
very remarkable antiquities. Now, however, we are weary, and since 
we have attained our goal and realized the great ideal of OUT life, we 
shall finally cease our efforts in Troy on June 15th. 

Twice in Schliemann's career as an archaeologist, events 
occurred which were strangely like those in the life of Howard 
Carter, who discovered Tutankhamun's Tomb half a century 
later. The first of these parallels was to occur now. Readers who 
recall the great Egyptian discovery in 1922 will remember that 
it was not until Carter had begun what was to have been his fare- 
well season in the Valley of the Kings' Tombs, after six years of 
unsuccessful digging, that he came upon the intact tomb of the 
Pharaoh. Schliemann, as we have seen, had decided to end his 
Trojan excavations and pay off his workmen on June fifteenth. 
One day before this date, he was standing, accompanied by a few 
of his workmen, near the circuit wall close to the ancient building 
which he believed to be Priam's Palace, and northwest of the 
"Scaean Gate," when he noticed a large copper object embedded 
under a layer of red and calcined ruins, above which stood a 
fortification wall. Looking more closely, the excavator's sharp 
eyes noticed, behind the copper, something bright and gleam- 
ing. It looked like gold. . . . 

Schliemann glanced at his workmen. They had noticed 
nothing. Then followed a piece of Odyssean cunning. Keeping 
quite calm, he called Sophia to him and told her quietly to have 
the paidos called the time of rest. "Tell them it is my birthday," 
he instructed her, "and that they 11 get their wages without work- 
ing!" When the workmen had dispersed, together with the 
overseer, Sophia returned and stood near her husband as he 
crouched beneath the wall in the bright sunlight, digging out 
from the hard-packed earth object after object of gleaming gold 
or dull silver. 

This required great exertion and involved great risk [he wrote 
afterwards], since the wall of fortification, beneath which I had to dig, 
threatened every moment to fall down upon me. But the sight of so 
many objects, every one of which is of inestimable value to archaeol- 
ogy, made me reckless, and I never thought of any danger. It would, 
however, have been impossible for me to have removed the treasure 


without the help of my dear wife, who stood at my side, ready to 
pack the things I cut out in her shawl, and to cany them away. 

Finally, when the last object had been taken to their hut, 
the two discoverers, feeling like naughty children on some con- 
spiratorial adventure, walked with careful unconcern to their 
hut atop the mound, locked the door, and then spread out the 
treasure before them. 

The loveliest of all the objects, far outshining the rest, were 
two magnificent gold diadems. The largest of these consisted of 
a fine gold chain, intended to be worn round the crown of the 
wearer's head, and from which hung seventy-four short, and 
sixteen longer, chains, each made up of tiny heart-shaped plates 
of gold. The "fringe" of shorter chains rested on the wearer's 
brow; the longer chains, each ending in a small Trojan idol," 
hung down to her shoulders. Thus her face would be framed in 
gold (see Plate 3). The second diadem was similar, but the 
chains were suspended from a narrow band of sheet gold, and 
the side chains were shorter, and evidently meant only to cover 
the temples. In the first diadem alone there were 16,353 separate 
gold pieces, consisting of tiny rings, double rings, and lancet- 
shaped leaves. In both articles the workmanship was rare and 

There were also six gold bracelets, a gold bottle, a gold 
goblet weighing 601 grams, a goblet of electrum and a large ves- 
sel of silver which contained, beside the diadems, sixty gold 
earrings, eighty-seven hundred small gold rings, perforated 
prisms, gold buttons, small perforated gold bars and other 
trinkets. Vases of silver and copper, and weapons of bronze, 
completed the hoard. 

But Schliemann's eyes kept returning to the shining diadems. 
This fifty-year-old merchant, who, as a child, had dreamed of 
Trojan treasure, sat running the golden chains through his fingers, 
watched by the lovely Greek girl who was his wife. Sophia was 
twenty now, and her dark beauty had reached maturity; she 
seemed at that moment the embodiment of the "white-armed 
Helen" for whom Greeks and Trojans had joined in battle near 
this very spot; and surely this was none other than Priam's 
treasure. So his imagination raced on, as, trembling, he placed 


on his wife's brows the glittering diadems which, he believed at 
that moment, had once adorned Helen herself. 

From now on, let the scholars scoff, he was convinced that 
Homer would lead him to the treasures of the pre-Hellenic world. 
"Since/* he wrote, T found all the objects together or packed 
into one another on the circuit wall, the building of which Homer 
ascribes to Neptune or Apollo, it seems certain that they lay in 
a wooden chest, of the kind mentioned in the Iliad as having been 
in Priam's Palace. It seems all the more certain, since I found 
close to them a copper key about four inches long, the head of 
which, about two inches in length and breadth, bears a very 
marked resemblance to the big key of an iron safe." ( This "key," 
the copper object which had first attracted Schliemann's atten- 
tion, was later found to be a bronze chisel.) And he continued: 
"Some member of Priam's family packed the treasure in the chest 
in great haste and carried it away without having time to with- 
draw the key, but was overtaken on the wall by the enemy or the 
fire, and had to leave the chest behind, where it was immediately 
covered to the depth of five or six feet with red ash and the 
stones of the neighbouring Palace/* 

Having explained, to his own satisfaction, how the treasure 
got there, his next problem was to get it out of the country. Ad- 
mittedly, permission to dig had only been granted him on condi- 
tion that half of everything he found be handed over to the Turk- 
ish Government. But now that he had these precious things in 
his hands, he could not bring himself to hand over even a part of 
them to people who he believed would not appreciate their 
unique archaeological value, but would almost certainly melt 
them down for the sake of the gold. But customs examinations 
were less rigorous in those days, and without much difficulty the 
excavators managed to smuggle the whole of the Trojan Treasure 
away from the Turks to Athens. 

But now an aggravating problem arose. He had the treasure, 
but how could he enjoy the glory of his discovery unless the 
learned world was told? And if the scholars knew, then so would 
tiie Turks. Schliemann made his plans. He announced his dis- 
covery, and allowed a number of responsible people to inspect 


the objects, so that there could be no doubt that he was telling 
the truth. But when the inevitable happened, and his house in 
Athens was searched through the agency of the Turkish ambas- 
sador, nothing was found. The treasures were safely hidden 
away in baskets and chests, in barns and stables, in the homes 
and on the farms of Sophia's many relatives. It was a stratagem 
worthy of Odysseus. 

But for the time being it put a stop to his archaeological 
work. The Greek Government, sycophantic towards the Turks, 
gave him no support. Indeed, the Director of the University 
Library denounced him as a smuggler, and even went so far as 
to accuse him of obtaining his finds, not under the soil of the 
Troad, but from the antique dealers. The authenticity of his 
Trojan discoveries was doubted, and when he applied to the 
Greek Government for permission to dig at Mycenae, in the 
Peloponnese, difficulties were placed in his way. First he was told 
that under Greek law no one was allowed to keep Greek antiq- 
uities, even for life. "Alter the law, then!" said Schliemann, a 
suggestion which was coldly received. He offered to give the 
whole of his discoveries, including Trojan treasures, to the Greek 
nation after his death if he could keep what he found during his 
lifetime. Still the authorities were adamant. Then, in 1874, he 
made a compromise suggestion offering almost the same terms, 
i.e., everything to go to Greece after his death provided he could 
keep part of his finds during life. 

Sure that the Government would accept this offer, Schlie- 
mann and his wife paid a two-day preliminary visit to Mycenae 
to survey the site. But so alarmed were the officials at the Ger- 
man's alleged powers as a discoverer of treasure, that a local 
busybody from Nauplia was sent hotfoot after the couple to 
examine their luggage and see that they had spirited nothing 
away. "This man is a swindler," said the Director of the Archaeo- 
logical Service, adding that Schliemann was quite capable of 
finding treasures at Mycenae (presumably without digging for 
them), then mixing them with his Trojan discoveries and smug- 
gling them out of the country. 

When the official found nothing in Schliemann's suitcase but 
a few potsherds, he apologized, but the great man was furious. 
He would leave Greece, he threatened. He would dig in Italy, or 


in Russia, where he would be treated with honor and dignity, 
and his services to archaeology would be appreciated. Sophia, 
anxious to remain in her own country, pleaded with him to stay, 
and eventually the Government concluded an agreement which 
allowed Schliemann to dig at Mycenae under the supervision of 
the Archaeological Society of Greece, at his own expense, and on 
condition that he hand over all he found. The sole concession 
they would grant was exclusive right of reporting on his discov- 
eries for a period not exceeding three years. He had to accept. 

However, two years were to pass before he was ready for 
the attack on Agamemnon's citadel. He had first to fight a law- 
suit with the Turks, which he lost, and was ordered to pay ten 
thousand francs compensation. Instead he sent five times that 
amount to the Ministry at Constantinople, hoping thereby to win 
over the authorities into allowing him to continue his Trojan 
excavations. For the time being there was no response, but Schlie- 
mann could afford to wait. Meanwhile his book Trojan Antiquities 
was published, prefaced by the brave but over-optimistic an- 
nouncement that: 

... if the people are disappointed in their expectations . . . and 
consider that Troy was too small for the great deeds of the Iliad, 
and that Homer exaggerated everything with a poet's freedom, they 
must, on the other hand, find a great satisfaction in the certainty now 
established that the Homeric poems are based on actual facts. 

But Schliemann's sanguine belief that he had found the 
Palace of Priam and the Scaean Gate had aroused the scepticism 
of professional scholars, and as Schuchhardt said later in his au- 
thoritative work on the excavations, "the final conclusion of sober 
thinkers was that even if a primeval settlement did exist on 
Hissarlik, its ruins did not correspond to the great period de- 
picted by Homer. Hissarlik could scarcely have been the capital 
of the land; and therefore, until further excavations should take 
place, Bounarbashi, defined by such acute and varied arguments, 
must still be accepted as Troy." As we shall see later, the "sober 
thinkers" were wrong, though at that time one can hardly blame 
them for refusing to change their opinions. 

Through influential friends in Constantinople, Schliemana 
eventually obtained, in April, 1876, a firman (permit) to re- 


commence his excavations at Troy, but he had not reckoned 
with the Oriental genius for organizing delay. For two months 
he was detained at the town of Dardanelles, under the pretext 
that the firman required confirmation. When at last he was al- 
lowed to begin, the local Governor, Ibrahim Pasha, sent along to 
Hissarlik a commissioner who did all in his power to annoy him. 
It was just one more example of the petty persecution which, in 
every age, genius has to suffer from Jacks-in-office. Schliemann 
retaliated by giving up his excavations and writing a violent 
letter to The [London] Times to show how the attitude of the 
Pasha conflicted with the interests of culture. Very soon Ibrahim 
found himself removed to another province. 

But when, in October, 1876, Schliemann received this pleas- 
ing intelligence, he was no longer interested in Troy. For, in a 
lonely valley in the Peloponnese, he had just made a discovery so 
important that it transcended his Trojan triumphs. This time even 
the most sceptical scholars were forced to take notice. Through- 
out the civilized world, in university combination rooms, in 
learned journals and famous newspapers alike, another Homeric 
name had become the focus of interest Mycenae. 



Watchman: I pray the gods a respite from these toils, 

This long year's watch that, dog-like, I have kept, 
High on the Atridan's l battlements, beholding 
The nightly council of the stars, the circling 
Of the celestial signs, and those bright regents, 
High-swung in ether, that bring mortal men 
Summer and winter. Here I watch the torch, 
The appointed flame that wings a voice from 


Telling of capture; thus I serve her hopes, 
The masculine-minded who is sovereign 

here. . . . 

So begins Aeschylus's great tragedy, Agamemnon surely one of 
the most dramatic beginnings ever devised by any playwright. 
From his lookout point high above the citadel of Mycenae, the 
tired watchman gazes down the dark valley to the sea and the 
mountains beyond. From those distant peaks he waits for the 
gleam of beacon fires by which the Greeks had arranged to signal 
to their homelands the fall of far-off Troy. 

Nine years have rolled, the tenth is rolling, 

Since the strong Atridan pair 

Menelaiis and Agamemnon 

Sceptred kings by Jove's high grace . . . 

Sailed for Troy. 

. , sing the Chorus. Then the beacon is seen shining, and the 
watchman hails it wildly. 

1 Agamemnon and Menelaiis were the sons of Atreus, hence they were 
often called "the Atridae." "The Atridan" here referred to is Agamemnon. 



AD hail, them cresset of the dark! fair gleam 

Of day through midnight shed, all haill bright father 

Of joy and dance in Argos, hail! all hail! 

Although Aeschylus was writing in the classical period of 
Greece, in the fifth century B.C., he took his plots from that an- 
cient Epic Cycle mentioned in an earlier chapter; in particular 
from the cycle which went by the popular name of "The Returns" 
describing the adventures of the Achaean heroes when they 
sought to return home after the sack of Troy. Of these "Returns" 
the most famous was that of Agamemnon, "King of Men," and 
Lord of Mycenae, who was murdered by the treachery of his 
Queen, Clytemnestra, and her lover, Aegisthos. Warned by the 
watchman of her lord's return, she laid her plans to destroy 
Agamemnon, in revenge for his having sacrificed their daughter, 
Iphigeneia, to the gods to obtain fair winds for Troy. On their 
return the unsuspecting King and his companions were killed at 
a banquet, though one version of the story states that Cly- 
temnestra slew Agamemnon in his bath. 

In the times of the later Greeks and Romans, when the an- 
cient epics were regarded, not as legends, but as authentic his- 
tory, Mycenae was confidently accepted as the scene of the mur- 
ders. Although it had fallen into ruin, it still retained its "Cyclo- 
pean" walls and huge, empty "beehive" tombs, which were oc- 
casionally visited by Greek and Roman travellers. For example, 
the Greek historian Pausanias, who lived in the second century 
after Christ, saw Mycenae and has left a description. 

. . , parts of the wall are still preserved as well as the gate over which 
the lions stand. These also they say are the work of the Cyclopes who 
built the wall for Proteus at Tiryns. In the ruins of Mycenae there is a 
fountain called Perseia and underground buildings of Atreus and his 
sons where their treasures were. There is a tomb of Atreus and there 
are also tombs of all those whom Aegisthos murdered on their return 
from Troy after entertaining them at a banquet. . . . Another is the 
tomb of Agamemnon, one of Eurymedon the charioteer, and one of 
Teledamus and Pelops for they say Cassandra gave birth to these 
twins and that while they were still infants Aegisthos killed them with 
their parents and one of Electra. . . . Clytemnestra and Aegisthos 
were buried a little outside the wall, for they were not deemed worthy 


of burial within it, where Agamemnon lies and those who were mur- 
dered with him [my italics]. 

I have italicized the last phrase because it was the crux of 
Schliemann's triumph at Mycenae. He, of course, was minutely 
familiar with all the epical and classical references to the citadel 
of the Atridae. He had noticed, for example, that whenever 
Homer mentions Mycenae, he usually accompanies it with an 
epithet which has been variously translated as "rich in gold" 
. . . "golden" . . . and "opulent." Homer's conventional epithets 
a familar feature of epic poetry are extremely well chosen 
(Schliemann had had good reason to remember "windy Troy"). 
Therefore, if the poet had called Mycenae "golden,** he must have 
had good reason; and if the gold was still there, Heinrich Schlie- 
mann would find it. So, in August, 1876, he appeared in that re- 
mote, windswept valley which slopes down to the plain of Argos, 
made his headquarters in the nearby village, recruited his work- 
men and began to dig. 

The main elements of the Mycenaean scene, as Pausanias 
saw them, as Schliemann saw them and as we can still see them 
today, are these: 

(a) A narrow valley, sloping up from the plain of Argos and the 
sea, which is to the south, to a chain of hills on the north. 
Through these hills passed roads to Corinth and other northern 

(fe) Near the top of the valley, between two high hills, is a much 
lower hill, but steep-sided and crowned with the ruins of a 
massive ring of walls. "Crowned" in this case is not a cliche, 
but precisely describes the way this knob of a hill "wears" the 
walls like a crown on a human head. The small area within the 
walls, steep, but with the top shaved off almost flat, Schlie- 
mann regarded as the Citadel, or Acropolis. 

(c) On the west side, the ring of walls, which are built of huge 
unmortared stones, is broken by a magnificent gateway above 
which stand two rampant lions carved in stone; this is the 
famous Lion Gate. 

(d) Part of the valley to the south of the Citadel and a large area 
to the southwest of it contains "tholos" tombs, sometimes called 
"Treasuries" the largest of which is the so-called "Treasury of 
Atreus." These, which will be described in more detail in the 


next chapter, are large, beautiful, stone-lined chambers hol- 
lowed out of the hillside in the shape of gigantic beehives, 
each approached by a straight-sided entrance passage called a 
"dromos." This large area in which the "tholos" tombs occur 
also contained the homes of the humbler Mycenaeans who 
lived outside the Citadel. 

If these elements are borne in mind, the shrewdness of 
Schliemann's judgment will be better appreciated; because he 
was not the first man to dig at Mycenae. Lord Elgin had been 
there before him, and carried off part of the pillared entrance to 
the "Treasury of Atreus," which can still be seen in the British 
Museum; so had Lord Sligo, and a Turkish gentleman named Veli 
Pasha. But they had all dug in the wrong places. 

Although no professional scholars shared Schliemann's belief 
in the literal truth of the Homeric poems, they took the guide- 
book of Pausanias more seriously. True, he had visited Mycenae 
thirteen hundred years after the traditional date of the Trojan 
War, when Mycenae was a legend-haunted ruin. Still, there was 
no reason to doubt that he had been shown tombs, or at any 
rate sacred areas, which local tradition ascribed to Agamemnon, 
Clytemnestra and the rest. But when the scholars of Schliemann's 
day were asked where these tombs could have been, they all 
located them, in their imaginations, outside the walls of the Cita- 
del. How, then, did they square this assertion with the last phrase 
of Pausanias's description which we quoted previously? 

Clytemnestra and Aegisthos were buried a little outside the wall, 
for they were not deemed worthy of burial within it, where Agamem- 
non lies and those who were murdered with him. 

Pausanias, said the scholars, could not have meant by "the 
wall" the so-called Cyclopean walls crowning the brow of the hill. 
Why not? Because these walls enclosed only a relatively small 
area, most of it bare rock and steeply sloping, totally unsuited for 
a cemetery. No, the wall which Pausanias saw must have been a 
second wall enclosing a much larger area outside the Cyclopean 
walls, and which had since disappeared. No doubt the tombs 
which Pausanias saw were the empty "tholos tombs" which had 
been despoiled centuries before his day. 


But this explanation did not satisfy Schliemann, who wrote: 

. . . that he [Pausanias] had solely in view the walls of the Citadel, 
he shows by saying that in the wall is the Lion's Gate. It is true that 
he afterwards speaks of the ruins of Mycenae, in which he saw the 
fountain Perseia and the treasuries of Atreus and his sons, by which 
latter he can only mean the large treasury described above, which is 
indeed in the lower city, and perhaps some of the small treasuries in 
the suburbs. But as he again says further on that the graves of Cly- 
temnestra and Aegisthos are at a little distance outside the wall . . . 
where Agamemnon and his companions reposed, there cannot be any 
doubt that he had solely in view the huge Cyclopean walls as he saw, 
and not those which he did not see ... he could not see the wall of 
the lower city, because it had been originally only very thin, and it 
had been demolished 638 years before his time. 2 . . . For these de- 
cisive reasons I have always interpreted the famous passage in 
Pausanias in the sense that the five tombs were in the Acropolis. 3 

It may well have been Schliemann's decision to dig in such 
apparently barren ground that persuaded the Greek Government 
to let him dig at all. The Greek Archaeological Society, which 
advised the Government, was known to be jealous of him, fearing 
that he might rob them of the glory which should be theirs. But 
when the crazy foreigner showed that he was going to dig where 
nothing could possibly be found, they smiled behind their hands 
and gave him permission. Even so, the Society appointed an 
ephor (superintendent), one Stamatakis, to watch over him and 
see that he kept to the Society's conditions that he should em- 
ploy only a limited number of men at a time, so that the ephor 
could watch what was going on, and hand over everything he 

He began his excavations in the neighborhood of the Lion 
Gate. Sophia was with him, of course, and they had under their 
supervision only sixty-three workmen at first. He chose this area 
because test shafts he had previously sunk there showed a good 
depth of soil, and besides, he had struck two Cyclopean house 
walls, an unsculptured slab resembling a tombstone, and a num- 

9 When Mycenae was sacked by the Argives in 469 B.C. 
1 It has since been discovered that there is another Grave Circle outside 
the wall. See Appendix "A". 


her of female idols and cows of terra-cotta. He had a hard job 
getting through the Lion Gate, which was obstructed by heavy 
stones. On the inside, to the left, he found a small chamber, "un- 
doubtedly the ancient doorkeeper's habitation . . . only 4J feet 
high, and it would not be to the taste of our present doorkeepers; 
but in the heroic age, comfort was unknown, particularly to 
slaves, and being unknown it was unmissed." 

Then he began to dig in the area behind the Lion Gate, 
within the Citadel itself; he unearthed walls, some evidently of 
late date, which, in his ruthless way, he wanted to clear away to 
get at the older structure. At this point the battle with Stamatakis, 
the ephor, began. The latter *s letters to his superiors were full of 
pathetic complaints. 

A few days ago he found a wall superimposed on another wall, 
and wanted to pull down the upper one. I forbade it, and he stopped. 
Next morning, when I was not there, he had the wall pulled down 
and the lower one exposed. 

When the cphor complained to Sophia, she told him sharply 
that her husband was a learned man who knew what he was do- 
ing, and that he, Stamatakis, was not a learned man, and would 
be well advised to keep his mouth shut. More workmen were 
enrolled, against the rules laid down by the Society, and though 
this enabled the work to proceed more rapidly, it also meant that 
Stamatakis could not see what was going on everywhere at the 
same time. His letters become more and more agitated. . . . 

If we find Greek or Roman vases, he looks at them in disgust and 
lets them fall. . . . He treats me as if I were a barbarian. ... If 
the Ministry is not satisfied with me, I beg to be recalled. . . . 

But by now Schliemann had made a most significant dis- 
covery. At a distance of 40 feet within the Lion Gate, and not far 
from the encircling Cyclopean walls, he had dug a trench 113 feet 
square, and had begun to disclose a circle of upright slabs, 87 
feet in diameter. The ground within the circle had been levelled 
in ancient times, and within this space the excavators found an 
upright stone stele like a gravestone. This slab had been carved, 
but was so badly damaged that the subject of the sculptured re- 


Eef could not readily be made out. But soon another sculptured 
gravestone was unearthed . . . and yet another. These were in 
better condition, and clearly showed warriors in chariots. 

Soon afterwards, Schliemann found a circular stone altar, pro- 
vided with a large opening in the form of a well. Schliemann de- 
cided that this was intended to allow the blood of sacrifice to be 
offered to the dead below. He also announced that the scenes of 
the stelae represented Homeric warriors, that the circle of stone 
slabs had enclosed the agora (town meeting place) and that be- 
low the stelae, though perhaps at some depth, must be graves. 
Under the fierce July sun, with dust in their nostrils and sweat in 
their eyes, the workmen toiled on. And while Heinrich and 
Sophia watched their men, the aggrieved little ephor, half dead 
with fatigue, tried to keep an eye on them all. 

Still more gravestones were unearthed, some sculptured 
with scenes of hunting or battle, or decorative designs; others 
quite plain. Carefully these were removed as the earth and 
loose rock were dug away from them; then, as the toiling work- 
men dug deeper, they found still earlier stone monuments, below 
the level at which the gravestones had stood. By this time they 
had dug through the thick layer of surface and were down to 
the solid rock. And then came a thrilling moment for Schliemann 
and his wife. At one point the edge of a cutting was revealed. 
Spades cleared away the last remnants of surface soil, and there, 
without a doubt, was the beginning of a vertical shaft going down 
into the rock to what depth they did not yet know. They looked 
at each other in excitement and triumph. They had found the 
first of the shaft graves. 

Watched anxiously by Heinrich, Sophia, and the ephor, the 
workmen carefully removed the soil, each shovelful of which was 
examined for any telltale sign. The men were out of sight, fifteen 
feet below the level of the rock and still digging, when Sophia's 
sharp eyes caught a bright gleam in the soil. She picked up a 
tiny object and wiped away the clay. It was a gold ring. 

It was too risky to let the workmen dig any further, so they 
were immediately dismissed. They shambled out through the 
Lion Gate, chattering and speculating among themselves; and 
the two discoverers, with the ephor, Stamatakis, watched them 
as they moved down the valley road. From now on the three of 


them had to work alone whenever they came to the final clearing 
of a grave (for this was only the first of several). They worked 
on their knees with pocket knives, delicately scraping away each 
layer of soil; and as Heinrich was now in his middle fifties much 
of this task fell to his young wife. 

Those who wish to enjoy the full flavor of Schliemann's My- 
cenaean saga must read his great book, Mycenae and Tiryns, 
which is fascinating in both its archaeological detail and its 
wealth of personal anecdote. Here I can only dwell on the more 
dramatic moments of those few weeks in the summer of 1876, 
when the educated world followed Schliemann at Mycenae with 
as much avidity as a later generation followed Howard Carter 
at Tutankhamun's tomb. Schliemann and his wife found five 
graves in all, and Stamatakis a sixth all contained within the 
ring of stone slabs which Schliemann had thought was an agora, 
but which was in reality a "Grave Circle" specially built to mark 
off the cemetery as a holy place. 

Each of these graves was a rectangular shaft, varying in 
depth from approximately three feet to fifteen feet, and in length 
from approximately nine to twenty feet. In these sepulchres were 
the remains of nineteen people, men, women, and two small 
children. Many of these bodies were quite literally laden with 
gold. To quote Professor Wace's summarizing description, in his 

On the faces of the men lay golden masks and on their chests 
golden breast plates. Two women wore golden frontlets and one a 
magnificent gold diadem. The two children were wrapped in sheet- 
gold. By the men lay their swords, daggers, drinking cups of gold 
and silver and other equipment. The women had their toilet boxes 
of gold and dress pins of various precious materials and their clothes 
were decked with golden discs ornamented with bees, cuttle fish, 
rosettes, and spirals. . . . This was indeed one of the richest archaeo- 
logical discoveries ever made. 

Rich it certainly was, but far from barbaric in its magnifi- 
cence. More remarkable than mere weight of precious metal was 
the brilliance of the art which the treasures revealed; an art of 
such vigor and maturity that it could have been produced only 
by a long-established civilization. Among the most lovely objects 


were two bronze dagger blades, inlaid in gold with designs in 
intaglio. One showed a lion hunt, with a wounded beast turning 
on a group of spearmen carrying huge "figure-eight" shields. An- 
other showed a conventionalized river scene, probably the Nile; 
wild cats slunk through the papyrus plants which grew beside the 
winding river, while above fluttered the startled wild fowl. On 
both these dagger blades the artist had shown effortless mastery 
in fitting his intricate design into the narrow space, and the crafts- 
manship of the gold inlay work was superb. 

Besides these particular blades, there were many others 
equally beautiful, including a bronze sword blade with running 
horses, a dagger blade with lions and, on the reverse side, gold 
and electrum lilies. The hilts were richly ornamented with gold 
leaf, and fixed to the blades by rivets of gold. 

In the women's graves were golden diadems, intricately em- 
bossed with circles, spirals and conventional patterns; there were 
gold leaves arranged like stars (for dress ornaments), bracelets, 
earrings, hairpins, and tiny human and animal figures in gold. 
There were also, on bead seals and signet rings, tiny scenes in 
which women appeared; slim-waisted women with elegantly 
coiffured hair, and wearing full, flounced skirts like Victorian 
crinolines; but there the resemblance stopped, as the tight 
bodices of the women seem to have left their breasts bare. 

All these precious things had lain hidden for thirty cen- 
turies under that barren hillside, undisturbed by the "drums and 
tramplings" of five conquests. The Dorians, the Romans, Goths, 
Venetians and Turks had come, abided for a little time, then gone 
their way. But Mycenae had kept its secret for thirty-five hundred 

Schliemann, at the moment of discovery, did not realize just 
how old these objects were. To him they were indisputably 
Homeric, the triumphant justification of his faith. For him it was 
a moment of supreme romance, and he revelled in it. 

For the first time since its capture by the Argives in 468 B.C. 
[he wrote], . . . the Acropolis of Mycenae has a garrison, whose 
watch-fires seen by night throughout the whole plain of Argos carry 
back the mind to the watch kept for Agamemnon's return from Troy, 
and the signal which warned Clytemnestra and her paramour of his 


approach. But this time the object of the occupation by soldiery is of 
a more peaceful character, for it is merely intended to inspire awe 
among the country people, and to prevent them from making clandes- 
tine excavations in the tombs. . . 

His belief in Homer's Troy had led him to discover the 
"Treasure of Priam." Now his faith in the accuracy of Pausanias 
had led him to the bodies of Agamemnon and his companions. 
For such he was convinced they were; nor was he alone in this 
belief. Even scholars who had been sceptical before now con- 
fessed that the German dilettante had a strong case. For when the 
treasures of the shaft graves were examined more closely, some of 
them seemed to have an unmistakable connection with the 
Homeric poems. In an earlier chapter I drew attention to the big 
Homeric body shield, which Aias held before him "like a tower" 
and which tapped Hector's neck and ankles as he walked. On the 
gold-inlaid dagger blades the lion hunters were shown holding 
just such shields, shaped like a figure eight and covering the en- 
tire body (see Plate 13). Schliemann pointed out another ex- 
ample on a gold signet ring with a design representing a battle 

The third warrior seems to have taken to flight, the rest of the 
body being hidden by an enormous shield, of peculiar form, which if 
the man were standing upright would cover his whole body from 
head to foot, [my italics]. 

Generations of scholars had been puzzled by these descrip- 
tions in Homer of shields for which there was no parallel in clas- 
sical times, or even in Homer's own period (900-800 B.C.). Now 
they were revealed for the first time. 

Then, in Grave IV, Schliemann found a gold cup of most 
unusual shape: a stemmed goblet with two handles on which 
were two doves facing each other. From the bottom of each 
handle a flat sidepiece was joined to the round base. Then the 
discoverer remembered the description of the golden cup into 
which old Nestor pours Pramnian wine for Machaon and him- 
self (Iliad, Book XI). 

It had four handles. Each was supported by two legs; and on 
top of each, facing one another, were two doves feeding. 


The arguments over "Nestor's Cup** have continued to this 
day. The parallel is close, and yet there are important differ- 
ences, e.g., the cup described by Homer has four handles, and 
is much larger. But to Schliemann it was the old Pylian chief- 
tain's cup (see Plate 17). 

The most remarkable parallel of all, and one that no sceptic 
can disprove, is provided by the Boars' Tusk Helmet. In the 
Fourth Grave were found sixty boars' teeth, "of all of which 
the reverse side is cut perfectly flat, and has two borings, 
which must have served to fasten them to another object, per- 
haps on horse-trappings. But we see in the Iliad that they were 
also used on helmets. . . ." Later, Schliemann and other 
archaeologists found many more examples of these ornaments, 
and also small ivory plaques showing warriors wearing helmets 
(probably of leather or hide) covered with slivers of boars' 
tusks, exactly as found in the graves. Now consider the following 
passage in the Iliad. It occurs in Book X, that wonderful night 
piece called the "Doloneia," in which Odysseus and Diomedes 
"of the loud war-cry" disguise themselves and set out to spy on 
the Trojan camp. Their comrades lend them arms and armor: 

Meriones gave Odysseus a bow, a quiver and a sword, and set a 
leather helmet on his head. Inside it there was a strong lining of in- 
terwoven straps, under which a felt cap had been sewn in. The 
outer rim was cunningly adorned on either side by a row of white 
and flashing boars tusks. 

Evidently the helmet was a curiosity even in the time of the 
Trojan War, for the poet says: 

This helmet originally came from Eicon, where Autolycus stole 
it from Amyntor son of Ormenus by breaking into his well-built house. 
Autolycus gave it to Amphidamas of Cythera to take to Scandaea; and 
Amphidamas gave it to Molus in return for hospitality. Molus, in his 
turn, gave it to his son Meriones to wear, and now it was Odysseus's 
head that it served to protect 

Schliemann had to admit, of course, that he had found many 
things of a type never mentioned by Homer. Among these were 
three characteristic types of object which, while Schliemann 


merely notes them along with others, were very important in 
relation to later discoveries in Crete. I shall therefore mention 
them briefly here. First, in the Fourth Grave, Schliemann found: 

A cow's head 4 of silver, with two long golden horns. ... It has 
a splendidly ornamented golden sun, of two and a fifth inches in diam- 
eter, on its forehead [see Plate 11]. . . . There were also found two 
cowheads of very thin gold plate . . . which have a double axe be- 
tween the horns. 

The third and more numerous type of object were seals; 
these were sometimes in the form of signet rings, sometimes 
flattish beads of semiprecious stone (some scholars refer to 
them as "gems"), often engraved with tiny, vividly drawn 
scenes in intaglio. It was mainly these miniature scenes which 
gave Schliemann and later excavators a clue to the life of the 
ancient people. Some scenes were manifestly religious; others 
depicted hunting and fighting. We have noted Schliemann's 
description of such a scene in which the "body shield" occurs. 
Here he is describing another seal, in which he fancies he sees 
the fight between Hector and Achilles in Book XXII of the Iliad. 

The intaglio on the following smaller ornament represents two 
warriors fighting a deadly duel. The one to the left of the spectator 
is a tall, powerful, beardless young man with an uncovered head, 
whose loins only are covered, the rest of the body being naked. He 
leans with all the weight of his body on his advanced left leg, and 
with his uplifted right hand he has just plunged his double-edged 
sword into the throat of his antagonist. . . . On the wounded man's 
body we see a round shield with a circle of small points, probably 
intended to represent the glitter of the brass [here he was wrong; the 
shields were of leather]. ... I ask whether we do not see here in the 
young, powerful, handsome man, Achilles, the most beautiful man 
in the Greek army; and in his antagonist, "Hector of the dancing hel- 
met-crest"; for, just as we see represented on this bead, Hector was 
slain by Achilles by a stab in the throat [see Plate 6]. 

Night after night, when the day's excavation was over, and 
the soldiers' watch fires gleamed on the Mycenaean Acropolis, 

4 Subsequently recognized as a bull. See Cretan chapters. 


Heinrich and Sophia would be poring over that day's discoveries, 
weighing the heavy golden goblets, admiring the vessels of silver, 
alabaster and faience; scrutinizing through magnifying glasses 
those fascinating, puzzling scenes on the seal stones, trying to 
understand this long-dead world which they had rediscovered. 
For Schliemann there were no doubts that it was Homer's 
world he had found the world of the Iliad. Had he not dis- 
covered the tombs of Agamemnon, Cassandra, Eurymedon and 
their companions, slain at that fatal banquet by Aegisthos? Who 
could doubt it? Eurymedon had been a charioteer; chariots were 
represented on the grave stelae. Pausanias had mentioned five 
graves; Schliemann had found five graves. Cassandra was said 
to have given birth to twins who were killed with their mother; 
the bodies of two infants, wrapped in gold, were found in one 
of the graves. 

The identity of the mode of burial, the perfect similarity of all 
the tombs, their very close proximity, the impossibility of admitting 
that three or even five royal personages of immeasurable wealth, who 
had died a natural death at long intervals of time, should have been 
huddled together in the same tomb, and, finally, the great resemblance 
of all the ornaments ... all these facts are so many proofs that all 
the twelve men, three women, and perhaps two or three children, 
had been murdered simultaneously and burned at the same time [the 
graves showed signs of fires having been lit within them.] 

It was in this spirit of passionate faith that he excavated 
the fifth and, for him, the last grave. 5 And there, as at Troy, 
he found what he ardently wished to find. Three male bodies 
lay in the tomb, their richly inlaid weapons beside them, golden 
breastplates on their chests and golden masks on their faces. 
When the mask was removed from the face of the first man, his 
skull crumbled away on being exposed to air; the same thing 
happened with the second body. 

But the third body, which lay at the north end of the tomb, the 
round face, with all its flesh, had been wonderfully preserved under 
its ponderous golden mask; there was no vestige of hair, but both 

8 After Schliemann's departure Stamatakis discovered and excavated a 
sixth grave, which contained two bodies. 


eyes were perfectly visible, also the mouth, which, owing to the 
enormous weight that had pressed upon it, was wide open, and 
showed thirty-two beautiful teeth. From these, all the physicians who 
came to see the body were led to believe that the man must have died 
at the early age of thirty-five. 

Schliemann lifted the gold face mask from the soil and 
kissed it. And that evening, while the news spread like wild- 
fire through the Argolid that the well-preserved body of a man of 
the heroic age had been found, the discoverer sat down and wrote 
a telegram to the King of Greece. It read: 

"I have gazed on the face of Agamemnon" [see Plate 12]. 

We have followed Heinrich Schliemann from the obscurity 
of a Mecklenburg parsonage to his finest hour in the citadel 
of the Atridae. In describing his successive discoveries I have 
tried to be faithful to his interpretation of them; to see them 
as he saw them, and not as we now understand them in the 
light of later knowledge. But this book is the story of a journey 
in search of truth, and Schliemann, like all pioneers, sometimes 
lost his way. The time has come, therefore, to call our first halt; 
to look behind at the ground we have covered and ahead at 
the hills we have still to cross. We have seen Mycenae through 
Schliemann's eyes. Now let us look at it for ourselves. 

Back, then, to our own time, to the gravelled space in 
front of "La Belle Hlene" on the morning after my arrival. 
On a bench near a low-hanging pepper tree sits Orestes, looking 
out towards the Vale of Argos, from whence blows the faint 
smell of the sea. And ahead lies the narrow winding road to 



ALTHOUGH February was not quite over, the morning was clear 
and sunny, the air full of the scent of thyme and the tinkle of 
sheep bells. At a turn in the road I met a ring of shepherd boys, 
in ragged ex-American Army overcoats, dancing rather solemnly 
to the sound of a pipe. 

Ahead rose the twin hills of Mount Zara and Mount Hagios 
Elias sharp against the Wedgwood-blue sky; on Hagios Elias 
archaeologists have found remains of a Mycenaean watchtower, 
perhaps that from which Clytemnestra's watchman saw the 
beacon fire. Between these two peaks I could see the lower hill 
on which stood the Citadel, but at that distance it was disappoint- 
ing. I had expected to see great walls clearly outlined against the 
green earth; but this was not Warwick Castle or Kenilworth; 
here was no soft meadowland but naked limestone. The bones 
of the hill showed through their thin covering, and the spring 
grass was only a faint mist of green above the grey; so that, at 
a distance, walls, rock and surface boulders merged into one. 

But near at hand there was wonder. On the left of the road, 
where it curved round a buttress of the valley, a great stone 
gateway, three times as high as a man, opened into the hillside, 
approached by a deep cutting, the sides of which were also of 
finely masoned stonework. I recognized it, from the triangular 
opening over the gate, as the largest of the "tholos" or "beehive" 
tombs, the famous "Treasury of Atreus." Entering the cutting, 
called the "dromos," I paused beneath the great doorway and 
looked up at the lintel. 

Carved from a single piece of limestone, it weighs a hundred 
and twenty tons. Five tall men lying heel to head in a straight 
line would just cover its length; it is over sixteen feet wide and 



has a thickness of more than three feet. Yet somehow the 
Mycenaeans had manoeuvred it onto its stone jambs without 
cranes or lifting-jacks, and fitted it accurately into position, where 
it has stayed for over three thousand years (see Plate 1). 

Inside the tomb it was dim, cool, and reverberant; a smooth, 
circular cave, rising in courses of beautifully cut blocks which 
curved inwards till they met in the center; exactly like the interior 
of a huge beehive. This great chamber is nearly fifty feet in 
diameter at floor level, over forty-five feet high, and seems even 
bigger when one is inside it. There are numbers of these "tholos" 
tombs in and near the valley, though in most the roofs have fallen 
in, and none are so perfectly preserved as this one. Pausanias 
and other classical writers called them "Treasuries," in which it 
was believed the ancient lords of Mycenae had kept their wealth. 
But from interments found in similar tombs in other parts of 
Greece, it is now known that they were tombs, comparable to 
the Pyramids of Egypt. And though Sir Arthur Evans believed 
that they were older than the shaft graves, the excavations of 
Professor Wace and others have shown conclusively that they are 
later; that, in fact, they date from between 1500 and 1300 B.C. 

Before coming to Greece I had read Professor Wace's book 
on Mycenae, the fruit of many years' patient study and excava- 
tion of a site which he clearly loves. Indeed, I had begun to 
suspect that his fondness for the place might have led him to 
overpraise its monuments. But no one standing within that lovely 
building could help but endorse his judgment on its unknown 

Here, first of all, there is a definite plan showing that before a 
single stone was cut or excavation begun a trained brain had consid- 
ered the problems involved and found a solution. The plan of the 
tomb reveals clear thinking and a definite intention as well as bold 
imagination. Furthermore it reveals that the mind behind the plan 
had also calculated weights and thrusts and stresses and taken the 
necessary steps to counteract them. The purpose of the tremendous 
hundred-ton lintel, the oblique jointing system in the setting of the 
threshold, the accuracy of the building, all show that an intellect was 
at work. This unknown master of the Bronze Age who designed and 
built the Treasury of Atreus deserves to rank with the great architects 
of the world. 


To which I would add a personal observation, for what it 
is worth. Travel in Egypt and the Near East had familiarized 
me with many ancient buildings, so that almost automatically 
I had come to regard any great structure earlier than 1000 B.C. 
as Oriental. But here, on European soil, nearly a thousand 
years before the Parthenon, someone had produced a building 
grand in conception, superb in construction, graceful in pro- 
portion and, to my eyes, unmistakably European in spirit. 

Returning to the road, I climbed towards the Citadel. As 
I drew nearer, the walls became more distinct, and I realized 
with a thrill that I was not to be disappointed. At close quarters 
the hill on which the Acropolis stands is much more steep than 
it appears from a distance, especially on the east. The fortress 
walls, called "Cyclopean" by the later Greeks, who thought that 
only the Cyclopes ( giants ) could have built them, almost encircle 
the hilltop, like the enceinte of a medieval castle. In all the world 
there are few sights so stirring as these dark ramparts, built of 
unhewn, unmortared blocks so huge and heavy that thirty cen- 
turies of wind, rain, earthquake, battle and pillage have not been 
able entirely to dislodge them. There they stand, pierced, on the 
west side, by the proud Gate of Lions, through which passed 
Agamemnon and his men on their way to Troy. Then, as now, the 
wind blew in from the sea, whipping the helmet crests of the 
warriors as they marched down the winding valley to the ships, 
while the women watched them go. 

Above the big square portal, with its great monolithic 
lintel stone, two rampart lions, headless but still magnificent, 
support a central pillar. This was perhaps a sacred symbol of the 
Great Earth Mother, goddess of fecundity and source of all 
life. The lions are the oldest monumental statuary to be found 
in Europe. Passing through the gate and over the threshold, 
worn by chariot wheels, I climbed the steep ramp on the left, 
which wound upwards towards the peak of the Acropolis. After a 
few yards I paused and looked down at the space on my right, 
between the ramp and the western wall of the fortress. Immedi- 
ately below me lay six open, square shafts, surrounded by a 
circle of stone slabs standing to a height of several feet. I was 
looking at the graves discovered by Schliemann and Stamatakis 


some eighty years ago. Grass and spring wildflowers grew where 
once lay the royalty of "golden Mycenae" (see Plate 5). 

Then a laborious scramble over low walls, through rooms 
now open to the sky and choked with prickly oak and asphodel, 
brought me to the eastern limits of the fortress, where a pointed 
arch in the mighty wall overlooked the ravine. From this place, 
an obvious lookout point, the Mycenaean sentry had a fine view 
down the ravine and towards the sea. Only a military people 
would have chosen such a site; on this side the steep rocky sides 
of the ravine made it impregnable, while on the remaining sides 
the huge walls must have been impassable in the days when 
spears and arrows were the most powerful weapons (see Plate 9). 
How, I asked myself, could such a place be taken? Perhaps by 
surprise or treachery, as in the case of Troy. But properly vict- 
ualled it could have withstood a long siege. 

Water it did not lack. The secret cistern from which the 
Mycenaean garrison drew its supplies is still there, and, apart 
from the Lion Gate, this subterranean reservoir makes a greater 
impression than anything else in Agamemnon's fortress. I found 
the entrance to it on the north side, not far from the Postern 
Gate a smaller entrance than the Lion Gate, probably used as 
a "sally port." On this side, where the sentries pacing the wall 
looked northwards up the pass to Corinth, I came to a triangular- 
headed arch from which a steep flight of steps began to descend 
into the earth (see Plate 10). First they passed obliquely through 
the great wall, until they were outside the wall and underground. 
After a short horizontal section the passage turned at right angles 
( to the west ) and descended by about twenty more steps until it 
doubled back on itself and plunged steeply into the earth. It was 
damp, and pitch black, and I counted over sixty steps as I felt 
my way downward. Near the bottom I lit a heap of dried sage- 
brush and, as the flames leaped up saw the glistening, arched 
walls of the tunnel, and right at my feet a square-shaped stone 
shaft, filled to the brim with clear water. 

This cistern, nearly twenty feet deep, was the secret water 
supply of the garrison, which they could use in time of siege. 
The water is fed to it by earthenware pipes from the same spring, 
Perseia, which the Greek traveller Pausanias saw seventeen hun- 


dred years ago; but the cistern and its approach tunnel, according 
to Professor Wace's estimate, were fifteen hundred years old when 
Pausanias came here. And the same spring which supplied the 
Mycenaeans still provides water for the modern village of Char- 

Returning to the surface, I climbed higher still, up steep 
winding paths past ruined walls, till I came, breathlessly, to the 
highest point, the site of the Palace itself, of which, alas, prac- 
tically all that remains are a few walls of the Great Hall or 
"Megaron." The rest has slipped down the hillside. But it was 
possible to make out the foundations of the Outer Court, on one 
side of which was the entrance porch leading to the Megaron 
itself. Readers of the Odyssey will remember that when Tele- 
machus pays a visit to Menelaiis to discover news of his father, 
he sleeps under the porch: 

And so Prince Telamachus and Nestor's royal son spent the night 
there in the forecourt of the palace, while Menelaiis slept in his room 
at the back of the high buildings and the lady Helen in her long robe 
by his side. 

Just such a porch and forecourt lay before the Hall of Aga- 
memnon, Menelaiis's royal brother. 

Within the hall itself, now a platform of stone open to the 
sky, I found the four bases of the pillars which had supported the 
roof; near these pillars, according to Homer, the King had his 
High Seat, and between them was the hearth on which the fire 
burned in winter. It was the floor of this courtyard and hall 
which Clytemnestra adorned with royal purple in honor of her 
husband's return, according to the story as told by Aeschylus. 

Spread purple where he treads! 
the Queen commands. 

Fitly the broidered foot-cloth marks his path 
Whom justice leadeth to his long-lost home 
With unexpected train, . . . 

On the far side of the court are the foundations of a small 
room which may one be allowed to fancy was the bathroom 


in which the King was done to death? At Knossos, we know, such 
bathrooms existed. Lured by her flattery of the purple cloths, not 
suspecting her long-maturing hate, Agamemnon was struck 

Not with a random inconsiderate blow, 

But from old Hate, and with maturing Time. 

Here, where I struck, I take my rooted stand, 

Upon the finished deed. . . . Here, Agamemnon lies 

My husband, dead, the work of this right hand 

The hand of a true workman. Thus it stands. 

Among the spring grass and the worn grey stones grew tiny 
scarlet anemones, like splashes of fresh blood. I had reached the 
end of the first part of my pilgrimage. Tired after my climb, I sat 
down and looked around me. 

On every side rose mountains. Behind me Mount Hagios 
Elias stood grandly against the pale sky. Far off to the south, 
beyond range upon range of intervening peaks, beyond the Bay 
of Argolis, rose the snow-crested ridge of Mount Parnon, a giant 
in a land of great mountains. At my feet the land fell away gently 
in terraces, in which the delicate green of vetch alternated with 
bands of terra-cotta. Here and there, symmetrical rows of olive 
trees marched along the lower slopes, accented in places by the 
darkly vertical cypresses. And beyond lay the fertile Argive Plain 
"Argos, home of lovely women/' as Homer described it, when 
he was not calling it "horse-rearing Argos." The air was still, 
save for an occasional puff of wind which brought with it the 
song of a shepherd boy on one of the far-off slopes, or the sound 
of his pipe. Here was the landscape of the Peloponnese at its 
loveliest, warmed by the first breath of spring. 

Resting there, I reflected on the many developments in 
Greek archaeology since Schliemann dug there so many years 
ago. Some of his early views he corrected himself in his own life- 
time. Others had to be modified after his death, when new knowl- 
edge had been gained. Schliemann would have been the first to 
approve of these changes. He knew that archaeological truths 
must inevitably be expressed in theories which represent the 
most feasible explanations from available evidence. But every 


year, new facts are disclosed, a dated inscription here, a piece 
of potsherd there, or perhaps the result of a piece of solid re- 
search between four study walls. If the theory is soundly based, 
it still stands. If not, it collapses, or has to be modified. But there 
is always a gain in truth. 

Was Schliemann right in believing that the bodies in the 
shaft graves were those of Agamemnon and his companions? Alas, 
no! Assuming Agamemnon to have been an historical personage, 
he would have lived round about 1180 B.C., the traditional date 
of the Trojan War (since confirmed by archaeology). But it is 
now known that the shaft-grave interments were much earlier, 
roughly between 1600 and 1500 B.C. We know this because, since 
Schliemann's day, discoveries on scores of "Mycenaean" sites in 
Greece and the islands have enabled scholars to develop a sys- 
tem of "sequence dating" principally by means of pottery. It 
would take too long to explain exactly how this is done, but at 
the risk of oversimplification I will try to get as near the truth 
as possible in a few sentences. 

As we shall see later, Mycenae seems to have been the center 
of an empire extending over a large part of the Aegean; and many 
"Mycenaean" and "proto-Mycenaean" sites have been unearthed. 
Where a site has been in long occupation, it is possible to trace 
the development of a culture by studying the pottery and other 
objects found in successive layers; the lowest obviously being the 
earliest, and the highest the most recent. For example, if one 
particular type of pottery is always found within the same strata, 
on dozens of different sites, and does not appear in lower or 
higher strata, then it clearly belongs to one chronological period. 
But how can one apply a date to such a period, when the people 
of prehistoric Greece left no dated inscriptions which can be 
read? Fortunately for archaeology some of this early Aegean 
pottery found its way into Egyptian tombs, which can be dated. 
Once having been able to date certain layers by the presence of 
pottery found in "datable" Egyptian tombs, it was possible to 
date, very approximately, the objects found in layers above, be- 
tween and below the dated layers. Even so, the dating is in- 
evitably far less precise than Egyptian chronology. 


But Schliemann's mistake was revealed long before this sys- 
tem of comparative dating had come into general use. In fact, it 
was discovered by his own assistant, the brilliant young Professor 
Dorpfeld, who did so much to bring more scientific methods into 
Schliemann's later excavations. The error might have been de- 
tected by the master himself if he had not been so passionately 
anxious to prove that the bodies had all been buried at the same 
time. He found the corpses lying on beds of pebbles at the bot- 
tom of the shafts, covered with a mass of clay and stones which 
he naturally assumed had been thrown into the graves after the 
burials. "The sides of each grave were lined with a wall of small 
quarry stones and clay, which has been preserved up to different 
heights; in the fifth grave it still reached seven feet eight inches/' 
writes Schuchhardt. "Several slate slabs were leaning against this 
wall; others were lying crossways or slanting over the bodies. Dr. 
Schliemann saw in them the revetment of the clay walls" (my 
italics). These slate slabs were to prove very important later. 

The bodies lay within a few feet of each other, each laden 
with and surrounded by arms and ornaments. They must all 
have been buried at the same time, argued Schliemann, since it 
would have been impossible to dig down through the superin- 
cumbent earth to introduce a later burial without disturbing 
those already lying there. That seemed logical enough. 

But in certain of the graves Schliemann found what he 
described as "little boxes of stout sheet copper," filled with wood 
in fair preservation, and fastened all round by a number of strong 
copper nails. He could not make out what these had been, and 
finally suggested that they might have been headrests. They 
were put into the Museum at Athens with the rest of the treas- 

Years later, when Dorpfeld was working for Schliemann, the 
young man began to reflect on the still-unsolved problem of the 
shaft graves. Did the bodies represent a simultaneous interment 
or the successive burials of a dynasty? He read and reread 
Schliemann's descriptions of the graves as he had found them. 
Then he noticed the reference to the "slate slabs" which Schlie- 
mann had found leaning against the wall, and which he thought 
had been "the revetment of the clay walls." A thought struck 
him, and he asked the Doctor a few questions. 


"Those slabs," he asked, "how were they placed when you 
found them?" 

"Against the sides of the graves." 

"Flat against the sides?" 

"No, some were leaning against the sides. One was lying 
across a body." 

When Dorpfeld heard this, he became more suspicious. He 
went again to the Museum and examined those "little boxes of 
sheet copper" which Schliemann has thought were headrests. 
They were full of decayed wood held in place by copper nails. 
Then he realized what had happened. Originally those slabs of 
slate had served to roof the graves, which had not been filled in 
with earth. Baulks of timber had been laid across the lip of each 
tomb, the ends resting on the ground being strengthened by 
copper sheaths Schliemann's "boxes." The slabs of slate had 
rested on top of the baulks, so that originally each grave had been 
a family vault, in which it would have been quite possible to 
make a number of separate interments without disturbing the 
others. Years, perhaps centuries, after the last of the dynasty had 
been laid in this tomb, the timber baulks had rotted away, and 
the slabs, pressed down by the earth which had accumulated 
above, crashed down onto the bodies (which accounted for the 
crushed condition of several). This had not been noticed by 
Schliemann, anxious as he was to believe that all the bodies had 
been buried simultaneously, but the "boxes" gave the game away. 

Later, when more had been learned of Mycenaean and 
Minoan art, it became clear that the objects found in the shaft 
graves did not all belong to the same period; that, in fact, there 
were subtle differences indicating that the burials had extended 
over roughly a century. Certainly they were royal; the members, 
perhaps, of an entire dynasty. But to Agamemnon, had he lived, 
they would have been as ancient as the Tudors are to us. He 
himself is more likely to have been buried in one of the great 
"Tholos* tombs in the valley; one likes to think he lay in the 
finest of all, that "Treasury of Atreus" which is sometimes called 
the Tomb of Agamemnon. 

But what of the tradition cited by Pausanias, who said the 
tombs lay within the Citadel, where indeed they were found? 
I think the answer is that there was in Pausanias's time a strong 


local tradition that royal personages lay within the Citadel, but 
it seems to me unlikely that he ever saw their gravestones. 1 The 
shaft graves were more than 1,500 years old when he came to 
Mycenae, and during much of that time it had been a deserted 
ruin. In all parts of the world neglected tombs have invariably 
attracted the plunderer. Is it likely that the gravestones could 
have been visible in classical times and remain unrobbed? But 
there still lingered in the vicinity of Mycenae an ancient folk 
memory of the kings who had been buried there, though their 
graves, and even their gravestones, were buried under the tons 
of loose earth and rock washed down from the steep slopes of 
the Acropolis above. 

It was this circumstance which favored Heinrich Schlie- 
mann, as Sir Arthur Evans pointed out later in his introduction 
to Emil Ludwig's biography of the excavator. 

Excavators learn by experience that the best chance indeed the 
only chance of hitting on an unplundered tomb is by digging into a 
natural talus, such as is formed by the deposit of earth and debris 
washed down or fallen at the foot of a declivity. But the area in which 
the Shaft-Graves had been sunk answered to all these conditions. It 
lay, in fact, immediately beneath the ascending ramp of the Acropolis 
and its inner wall, dominated by the steep above. And it was thus, 
happily inspired by the most fruitful version of the old tradition, that 
he dug with such dramatic results. 

Here is the second interesting parallel (the first was the 
discovery of the Trojan treasure) with the finding by Howard 
Carter of the tomb of Tutankhamun, half a century later. Carter, 
like Schliemann, found his tomb at the foot of a slope, hidden 
under the stone chippings thrown down from a later sepulchre 
excavated at a higher level. 

After Schliemann's departure the much-enduring Stamatakis 
found the Sixth shaft grave, which did something to restore the 
amour-propre of the Archaeological Society of Greece. He also 
cleared the debris from the "Treasury of Atreus," leaving it as we 
see it today. Then came Tsountas (1862-1902), Keramopoullos 
and Rodenwaldt, all of whom made their contribution to the rev- 

1 However, see Appendix "A.** 


elation of Mycenaean civilization. From 1920 onwards British 
scholarship, represented by the British School at Athens, con- 
tinued to excavate at Mycenae, up to and since the war. 2 These 
excavations, directed by Professor Wace and published in the 
Annual of the School, have disclosed facts which were not avail- 
able to Schliemann or his successors. 

For example, Wace has shown that the prehistoric cemetery 
of which the shaft graves form part originally extended beyond 
the line of the Cyclopean walls, west of the Lion Gate. Between 
approximately 1600 and 1500 B.C., princes and princesses of the 
royal family were buried in that part of the cemetery which now 
comes within the walls. They seem to have belonged to one 
dynasty, and were contemporary with these kings of the early 
Eighteenth Dynasty in Egypt Amasis and the early Tuthmoses. 
Mycenae's greatest period was that of the last phase of the Late 
Bronze Age, about 1400-1150 B.C. Of this epoch Wace says: 

... all the evidence indicates that Mycenae was a strong and flour- 
ishing state, the seat of a powerful dynasty with a wide dominion. It 
corresponds admirably with our idea of the stronghold which was the 
capital of Agamemnon, King of Men, primus inter pares of the Greek 
princes before Troy and holder of the supreme sovereignty granted by 

It was during this latter period that the Mycenaeans built 
the Cyclopean Walls with the Lion and Postern Gates. At the 
same time the burial place of the earlier kings, held in great 
veneration, was surrounded by the circle of stone slabs which 
Schliemann had mistaken for the agora. The slope of the ground 
was levelled off, and within the circle, the gravestones were 
raised, with the circular well-like altar through which the blood 
of sacrifice could be poured to the heroes below. As in Egypt, 
it is probable that regular offerings were made to the illustrious 
dead. Later, when the citadel fell into ruin, soil washed down 
from the slopes above gradually covered both the Grave Circle 
and the memorial stones with their sculptured charioteers, sealing 
them from curious eyes for more than thirty centuries. 

Is there still any support for Schliemann's belief that the 

The most dramatic discovery since Schliemann's time was made in 
1952. See Appendix "A." 


Mycenaean civilization was the one described by Homer? 
Answer: yes and no. 

The arguments on behalf of the "eight-shaped" shield, the 
Boars' Tusk Helmet, the use of bronze for weapons, and, per- 
haps, "Nestor's Cup" are still accepted; indeed they are irre- 
futable. Even the objection that some of Homer's shields are 
round can be met by those who support a Mycenaean origin of 
the poems. It is true that the shields shown on the shaft-grave 
daggers are large and shaped like a figure-of-eight. But in the 
remains of a late Mycenaean house near the Lion Gate was 
found a fragment of a vase the famous Warrior Vase which 
clearly shows Mycenaean soldiers carrying smaller, round shields 
with a "bite" out of the bottom. This vase is believed to be of 
the thirteenth century B.C. the period of the Trojan War. So, 
said the believers, the round shields mentioned in Homer do not 
in themselves prove that he lived in post-Mycenaean times. 

Yet even Schliemann had to admit that there were many ele- 
ments of Mycenaean life which were quite unlike that which 
Homer describes. To take a few examples: the Mycenaeans 
buried their dead; the Homeric heroes burned theirs. The My- 
cenaeans were a Bronze Age people; Homer understood the use 
of iron. Mycenaean bronze swords are rapiers designed for 
thrusting; Homeric swords were sharp-edged for a slashing 

Eventually even Schliemann himself was forced to admit 
that the Homer who composed the Iliad could not have lived at 
the time of the Trojan War. Yet he had started a controversy 
which was to rage for more than half a century; nor has it ceased 
even today. Hundreds of books and articles in many languages 
poured from the presses of Europe and America, and learned 
gentlemen fought their wordy battles with the vigor of Achilles 
and Hector themselves. 

But the real significance of Mycenae, and the discoveries 
which followed soon after at Tiryns, was not in their resem- 
blance, or lack of resemblance, to the Homeric poems. The indigo 
merchant turned scholar had opened up a new world for archae- 
ology. Minds accustomed to the cautious scepticism of Grote 
suddenly realized that there had existed, on European soil, a 
high civilization a thousand years older than the Greek. Nor was 


it confined to Mycenae. Archaeologists who investigated other 
sites, on the mainland and in the islands, made a significant dis- 
covery. In most of the places which Homer described as having 
sent contingents to the Trojan War, and which were therefore 
important political centers places such as Tiryns, Orchomenos, 
Lacedaemon, Amyclae there were remains of Mycenaean set- 
tlements. The Catalogue of Ships in the Iliad seems to give a 
fairly true picture of the political and military structure of Greece 
in Mycenaean times. In a way it was exasperating. With one 
hand Homer seemed to betray his devotees. With the other, he 
magnificently supported them. 

Gradually the Homeric side of the question became less and 
less important as the further excavations proved how widespread 
and how long established this ancient culture had been. But 
who were these people? Where did they come from? What lan- 
guage had they spoken? What could be learned about their re- 
ligion and customs? Had they a system of writing and could it 
be deciphered? What was their relationship with other Mediter- 
ranean peoples? 

These were some of the questions to which archaeologists 
and historians had to apply themselves during the coming years. 
Some have remained unanswered. To others partial replies can 
be given, which I will try to summarize at the end of this book. 
But for the present we are going back to take up the thread of 
Schliemann's story after his Mycenaean glory, for he himself 
was able to follow the trail of discovery a good deal further 
before it was taken up by others. 



A FEW miles from the town of Argos, on the road to Nauplia, 
stands a village. There is a caf with a few wobbly iron tables; 
a jail from which, at intervals, a trumpet sounds; a few low 
houses of mud brick and terra-cotta tiles; donkeys, barking dogs 
and a general air of polite decay. On one side of the road is an 
arm of the Bay of Argolis. On the other are the inevitable rows 
of dusty olive trees, their old, gnarled feet gripping the brown, 
crumbling earth. Beyond them, to the north, the land rises 
gradually towards the hills where lies Mycenae, 

You climb off the ramshackle bus, walk a few steps along 
the village street, go past the prison, and there in front of you 
stands Tiryns next to Mycenae itself, the mightiest surviving 
example of a Mycenaean fortress. Although the site has not the 
romantic setting of Mycenae, nor the glamour of its legend, the 
place has a grim splendor which still justifies the name which 
Homer gave it Tiryns of the Great Walls." From a distance, it 
rides the peaceful fields like a battleship long and low and 
grey, with its Acropolis breaking the outline like a gun turret. 
It is 900 feet long, from 200 to 250 feet broad, and from 30 to 50 
feet high. 

From close at hand all other impressions are crushed by 
those Cyclopean walls, made of ponderous, unwrought or roughly 
hewn blocks, weighing up to ten tons each. The total width of 
these walls varies from between twenty-five and fifty feet. Some 
are hollow, and have within them long galleries, vaulted at the 
top and pierced on the outer side by triangular embrasures which, 
from outside the fortress, look like black, gaping mouths. The 
resemblance to a medieval castle is even more marked than at 



Mycenae, the embrasures resembling gun ports; yet Tiryns was 
built more than twelve hundred years before Christ. The aper- 
tures were probably intended for archers, whilst the galleries 
themselves must have served for covered communications lead- 
ing to armories, guard chambers or towers. 

If you could have been at Tiryns in 1884, you might have 
seen, sitting under the shade of a wall and munching cheese and 
corned-beef sandwiches, two men in shirt-sleeves. The elder, a 
balding, spectacled gentleman with a high forehead and thick 
moustache, was talking rapidly and making energetic gestures 
to his much younger companion, who sat calmly eating, or 
taking an occasional satisfied gulp from his glass of resinous wine. 
Now and again he would make a note, or interject a few words 
into his companion's monologue, then return to his meal. 

The older man was Schliemann, now aged sixty-two. The 
other was Dorpfeld, the brillant young architect whom Sir Arthur 
Evans, in later years, described as "Schliemann's greatest dis- 
covery." It was Dorpfeld who gradually introduced the discipline 
of science into the older man's investigations, and taught him the 
value of care and patience in excavation, accuracy in publication 
and temperateness in controversy. "Scientific questions," he 
would tell his angry employer, "cannot be settled by abuse . . . 
but only by objective proof." It says much for Schliemann's 
vision and essential humility that he appreciated Dorpf eld's 
genius and accepted (with occasional rebellious outbursts) his 
wise guidance. 

Once again Schliemann had followed his ancient authors. 
Pausanias had described the walls of Tiryns as "composed of 
unwrought stones, each of which is so large that a team of mules 
cannot even shake the smallest one. . . ." (An exaggeration, as 
the cautious Dorpfeld pointed out.) Traditionally the fortress 
had been built by Proteus. Heracles is also supposed to have con- 
quered it and lived within its walls for a long time hence he 
is sometimes called "The Tirynthian." In classical times it had, 
with Mycenae, sent four hundred men to the battle of Plataea. 
In 1876, just before beginning his Mycenaean excavations, Schlie- 
mann had sunk a few test pits there and brought to light "Cyclo- 
pean" house walls at considerable depth, and a few clay cows and 
terra-cotta "idols" similar to those he later discovered at Mycenae, 


But that was eight years ago, and now he had returned, not, 
this time, with Madame Schliemarm, but with a skilled architect, 
seventy workmen, and "forty English wheelbarrows with iron 
wheels, twenty large iron crow-bars . . . fifty pickaxes, fifty 
large shovels" and other formidable equipment. Already, in that 
summer of 1884, they had removed hundreds of tons of earth 
from the middle and upper citadels and revealed, for the first 
time, the clear ground plan of an Homeric palace. Walls, door- 
ways, thresholds, pillar bases were laid bare, and carefully 
measured and drawn by Dorpfeld. The excavations were not 
complete yet, but enough had been done to give Schliemann 
great satisfaction. 

For the plan of the Palace, with its Megaron, porch, court- 
yards and adjoining rooms, bore unmistakable resemblances to 
the Palace of Odysseus, as described in the Odyssey. True, that 
building had been in Ithaca, but this was so similar to it that 
it was even possible, if one allowed for a few discrepancies, to 
'visualize the fight in which Odysseus slew the suitors. Schliemann 
was in his element. The aging merchant-scholar with his rapidly 
thinning hair and thick spectacles had reason to feel content as 
he leaned his back against the ancient wall and looked across the 
sunny plain of Argos. There, on the northern skyline, rose the 
hills which hid Mycenae, scene of his greatest triumph only 
eight years ago. But what years they had been! 

First there had been his triumphal tour of England in 1877, 
when thirty learned societies had vied with each other to honor 
him, and he renewed acquaintance with Gladstone, whom he had 
first met in 1875. This was an age when it was still not unusual 
for a Prime Minister to combine statecraft with classical scholar- 
ship. Gladstone's interest in Homeric studies was well known, 
and Schliemann asked him to write a preface to his forthcoming 
Mycenae. The Liberal leader could hardly refuse, though when 
he read the German's book, he confessed to Murray, the pub- 
lisher, that he was "quite worried .about it, as I am not the right 
man for it." Nevertheless he contributed a lengthy and well- 
reasoned introduction in which, after cautious consideration of 
the available facts, he came out in support of Schliemann's view: 
that the shaft graves had contained the bodies of Agamemnon 
and his murdered companions. 


When Heinrich went to England in 1877, Sophia was ill and 
unable to accompany him. Convalescing in Athens, she wistfully 
read her husband's enthusiastic letters, telling her that ten so- 
cieties had asked him to lecture, that yesterday he had had din- 
ner with Gladstone, who had carried off her photograph "so 
please bring others with you" that the London Photographic 
Society had paid him forty pounds for permission to take and sell 
his photograph, and that "Hodge, the painter, has been after me 
for weeks to paint me life-size for the Royal Academy." 

Finally, in the summer, she was able to join him, and took 
her seat, a grave and lovely woman of twenty-eight, on the plat- 
form of the Royal Society. There, before a distinguished audience 
of over a thousand people, they were each awarded a special 
diploma by the Archaeological Institute. Both made speeches in 
English, and fashionable ladies listened, fascinated, while Sophia 
told them how for twenty-five days she and her husband had 
knelt almost in the soil of the shaft graves and lifted from them, 
one by one, the golden treasures of the Atridae. 

Those had been heart-lifting moments, moments which al- 
most compensated for the bitter attacks of the German critics, 
attacks which had made Schliemann write: 

In London. ... I was received for seven weeks as if I had dis- 
covered a new part of the globe for England. How very different it 
is in Germany. There I met only with abuse. . . . 

Criticisms, some fair and unbiased, others prompted by 
jealousy and malice, were to continue through Schliemann's life, 
and never ceased to cause him pain. Yet, gradually, responsible 
opinion came to place an ever-higher value on the German's 
discoveries, especially when, in later years, he brought in trained 
specialists to help him. But the legend of the publicity-seeking 
mountebank died hard, and he often had reason bitterly to regret 
the too precipitate publication of his early finds. 

In the following year, 1878, his English triumphs were 
crowned by an even greater joy; Sophia presented him with a 
son, whom he named naturally Agamemnon. Seven years 
earlier, when he had first begun to dig at Troy, a daughter had 
been born to them, whom Schliemann had christened Androm- 
ache, after Hector's wife. But now his dearest hopes were ful- 


filled. Before the child was more than a few hours old, the 
entranced father held a copy of Homer above his head and read 
aloud a hundred lines from the poet. That was Schliemann the 
romantic. Schliemann the practical revealed himself at the solemn 
Orthodox christening, when, just as the priest was about to im- 
merse the infant, his parent darted forward, plunged a ther- 
mometer into the font and checked the temperature. 

In the same year he began to build for himself a mansion 
in Athens, on what is now University Street. When completed, a 
few years later, it was the most palatial building in the capital, 
and throughout the whole of Greece few equalled its magnifi- 
cence. On the roof marble gods and goddesses stood against the 
blue sky. Within were pillared halls and marble staircases, 
opulent but chilly, and a particularly splendid ballroom where 
guests who cared to examine the frieze of putti round the walls 
could see that these tiny figures represented the principal ac- 
tivities of the host's life. Here some of the figures were reading 
Homer and Pausanias; there were others digging and unearthing 
the rich treasures of Mycenae and Troy; and who was this, a 
figure in black, with horn-rimmed spectacles, gazing across the 
landscape why, Schliemann himself! 

On walls and staircases, above doors, within and without 
the house, were inscriptions from the ancient Greek authors. 
Above the great man's study were the words of Pythagoras: 

All who do not study geometry, remain outside. 

Other walls bore the verses of Homer and Hesiod, while, 
carved on the front of the palace, in Greek letters, were the words 
"Iliou Melathron" Palace of Ilios. Here Schliemann and his wife 
would receive their distinguished guests from many parts of the 
world, and on the ground floor, displayed in glass cases, was the 
golden "Treasure of Priam'' which Heinrich and Sophia had un- 
earthed from beneath the walls of Troy. 

But all that was to come later. Meanwhile, as the house was 
building, Schliemann paid another visit to Ithaca, where he thor- 
oughly explored the island, climbed Mount Aetos, sank a few 
experimental shafts at various places, but found nothing of great 
interest. Then, in September, 1S78, he returned to Troy, the 
difficulties concerning the firman having been temporarily solved, 


though they were soon to crop up again. He recommenced dig- 
ging near the point at which he had found the "Treasure of 
Priam," i.e., the large building west and northwest of the Gate. 
Less than a month after he had begun excavating, he uncovered 
another smaller treasure of golden objects, contained in a broken 
terra-cotta vessel "in a chamber in the north-west part of the 
building ... in the presence of seven officers of H.M.S. Mon- 
arch. . . /' Winter rains stopped work at the end of November, 
so Schliemann went to Europe for a few months, returning to 
the Dardanelles in February, 1879. A month later he was joined 
by one of the most distinguished scientists of Europe, a man who 
was to have a strong and beneficial influence on Schliemann 
during the closing years of his life. 

Professor Rudolf Virchow had come out at Schliemann's in- 
vitation. They had already corresponded, but this was the mo- 
ment when their association became close and intimate. Vir- 
chow, a brilliant doctor of medicine, was almost the same age as 
the archaeologist. He had gained fame in his thirties as the 
founder of a new pathological system. Later, impelled by humane 
and liberal convictions, he had become a member of the German 
Parliament, where he had again distinguished himself, this time 
as a politician. Mr. Emil Ludwig, to whose Schliemann of Troy 
all later writers on Schliemann are bound to be indebted, happily 
explains the reasons why these two very dissimilar spirits were 
drawn together. 

Both men had in youth stepped beyond the bounds of their call- 
ing, and struck out, or at least prospected, by-paths into the world 
. . . both . . . had voluntarily and disinterestedly assumed a second 
burden, the one out of revolutionary sympathy, the other from ambi- 
tion and an impulse towards higher tasks. . . . 

. . . Intrepid, humane, and cool, Virchow was the man to sup- 
port new discoveries whatever their source. He was distinguished 
from other German university professors by an unbiased outlook, 
which always ruled out personal questions about the origin, educa- 
tion, religion, or relationship of an independent mind about whom 
controversy raged. 

It was these qualities which made Virchow such a valuable 
friend and ally for the impetuous excavator. His cool, scientific 


brain restrained Schliemann's wilder impulses, while he had the 
discernment to recognize and encourage the natural genius of 
the man, untroubled by scruples concerning his unacademic 
background. And, as Virchow was a man of means, he avoided 
the imputation of being influenced by the millionaire's wealth. 

With Virchow came M. Emile Burnouf, Honorary Director of 
the French School at Athens, and together the three worked 
throughout the summer season, Schliemann directing the excava- 
tions, Burnouf making plans, and Virchow studying the flora, 
fauna and geological characteristics of the Plain of Troy, as well 
as the conditions of the ruins and debris brought to light in the 
course of the "dig." 

Schliemann was also able to make several excursions with 
Virchow into the surrounding country. They went to the dis- 
credited site of Bounarbashi and took the temperature of the 
springs around which so much controversy had raged, and 
Heinrich was delighted when his friend agreed that the differ- 
ence in temperature between one spring and another was almost 
imperceptible. They climbed Mount Ida together, and found the 
source of the river Scamander, which plays such a vital part in 
the topography of the Iliad. By the end of the season the ex- 
indigo merchant and the great scientist had become close friends, 
and when, in the following year, Schliemann published his eight- 
hundred-page volume Ilios, it was Virchow who contributed 
the preface. 

. . . there stands the great hill of ruins, forming for realistic con- 
templation a phenomenon quite as unique as "Sacred Ilios" for poetical 
feeling. It has not its like. Never once in any other heap of ruins is a 
standard given by which to judge it. ... This excavation has opened 
for the studies of the archaeologist a completely new theatre like a 
world by itself. Here begins an entirely new science. 

Virchow, not concerned as Schliemann was with a desperate 
search for Homeric parallels, could see the greater significance of 
his friend's discoveries. But Schliemann, who had hollowed out 
an enormous crater in the centre of the hill, was still perplexed 
by the seven strata he had uncovered, and of which only the 
lower layers could, in his view, possibly be Homeric. He now put 


forward the belief that the Third Stratum (from the bottom), 
the so-called "Burned City," was Priam's Troy, but his doubts and 
perplexities are pathetically evident in the book. 

. . . this petty little town, with its brick walls, which can hardly 
have housed 3,000 inhabitants . . . could [it] have been identical 
with the great Homeric Ilios of immortal renown, which withstood 
for ten long years the heroic efforts of the united Greek army of 110,- 
000 men? . . . 

Only the absence of any reliable system of comparative dat- 
ing by pottery prevented him from seeing that his "Homeric" 
Troy, i.e., the city which had existed in 1180 B.C., was there 
in front of his eyes. Had he known, he need not have looked at 
the miserable prehistoric settlement which lay at the bottom 
of his crater; the walls of Homeric Troy were in the upper layers l 
as massive as those of their contemporaries at Mycenae and as 
satisfying to his romantic imagination. He knew and admired the 
walls had he not spared them when digging for deeper re- 
mains? but he thought they were of the time of Lysimachus a 
mere three hundred years B.C. 

In 1881, he was persuaded by Virchow to present his Trojan 
collection to the German nation, but only after strings had been 
pulled by that adroit politician to ensure for Schliemann the 
Freedom of Berlin and, among other honors, the Pour la Merite. 
Schliemann could not easily forgive the sneers of the German 
scholars and the scornful press attacks which had followed his 
first discoveries at Troy. 

He had spent the 1880 season digging in Greece, where at 
Orchomenos, another Homeric site, he had uncovered a My- 
cenaean "tholos" tomb which, following Pausanias, he thought 
was a Treasury." But in the ensuing year he was back at Troy, 
this time with young Dorpfeld, who had asked for the honor of 
working for him. Dorpfeld, with his architect's training, was able 
clearly to distinguish and draw plans of the complicated strata 
of Hissarlik. Like Virchow, he was also able to exercise a re- 

1 Dorpfeld later identified Homeric Troy as the Sixth Stratum from the 
bottom. Tins was accepted until Professor Blegen dug at Troy immediately 
before the Second World War. Blegen recognizes nine layers of strata, of 
which No. 7A is believed to be the flios of the Trojan War. 


straining influence on Schliemann, and prevented him from rush- 
ing into print with a very inexact plan of the excavations. "Only 
by means of a correct plan/' he advised, "shall we be able to 
silence our adversaries completely." Gradually the old lion was 
being tamed for the good of science, and for his own good 
and yet, one suspects, at the cost of much of his earlier enthu- 

Sophia did not accompany him during these later seasons at 
Troy, where, in the first years of their marriage, they had found 
the ancient gold. Sometimes she paid him brief visits; when he 
was alone he missed her greatly, and would write from his hut 
on the Trojan hill: 

I burn four candles, but the room is still dark, whereas your 
eyes would light it up. Life without you is unbearable. 

Still struggling with the eternal problem of the Trojan strata, 
he was prevented for the time being from making further investi- 
gations by the Turkish Government, which had now thought of a 
new way to annoy Schliemann. Not far from Hissarlik was a 
decrepit fort of no interest to anyone, save, perhaps, the Turkish 
Army. The Government decided that the archaeologist must be 
a spy, and forbade him to make further plans. Schliemann re- 
turned to Athens and again enlisted the help of his powerful 
friends German, British and American to work through their 
Embassies in Istanbul for the downfall of the obstructive Turkish 
officials. He even suggested that Bismarck should appoint an- 
other German Ambassador to Turkey, as the current one was in- 
sufficiently active on his behalf! In the meantime he made a senti- 
mental journey to his childhood home at Ankershagen, taking 
Sophia and the children with him. The miller who had recited 
Homer was still alive, and had to be introduced. So was Minna 
Meincke, now a fat and tearful old woman. 

Then, as we have seen, came two seasons' work at Tiryns, 
where he made a discovery which, while it pleased the scientific 
side of his nature, dealt yet another blow to his faith in his Third 
Stratum. Within the citadel of Tiryns he and Dorpfeld uncovered 
the foundations of a "Megaron," which, with its pillared porch 
and courtyard, was so like that described in the Odyssey as to be 


unmistakably Homeric. This was great news, but it raised a 
difficult problem. For at Troy, in the Sixth Stratum the layer 
which Schliemann had considered to be of the third century 
Dorpfeld had excavated a similar Megaron. For a moment Schlie- 
mann was on the brink of discovering the truth that one of the 
upper layers did represent Priam's Troy. 

Priam's Troy . . . but what about "Priam's Treasure," which 
he had found far below in the Second Layer the ornaments 
which his imagination gave to Helen herself these wonderful 
golden diadems which had hung on the brow of his young wife 
on that memorable day in 1872? If this Sixth Layer was Priam's 
city, then the treasure he had found could never have belonged 
to Priam, but to some nameless barbarian who had lived centuries 
before him. For a time he would not commit himself, but tried 
to dismiss the problem from his mind. 

One fact was clear; the pottery and other objects found at 
Tiryns were so like those found at Mycenae as to make it certain 
that the two cities were inhabited by the same race. But who 
were they? Schliemann believed them to have been Phoenicians. 
Others disagreed. Meanwhile the learned world examined and 
re-examined the precious things from Mycenae, Tiryns and 
Troy or if they could not get to the objects themselves, they 
pored over the hundreds of steel engravings in Schliernann's 
bulky volumes. Theories were advanced and demolished, new 
theories put forward in their place. One savant said that the so- 
called "gold mask of Agamemnon" was a Byzantine mask of 
Christ. Others scholars, while paying tribute to Schliemann's 
intuitive genius, asserted that the objects were far older than 
Homer or even the Trojan War. 

One such believer was a young Englishman of thirty-one 
who came to see the Schliemanns in Athens in 1882. Recently 
married, he had come to Athens with his wife and obtained an 
introduction through his father, a well-known antiquarian whom 
Schliemann had met in England. The Englishman listened 
politely while Schliemann talked of Homer, but seemed only 
mildly interested; what interested him most were the golden 
objects from Mycenae, especially the tiny engraved bead seals 
and signet rings, which he examined minutely through his keen 
but shortsighted eyes. These objects so unlike the art of classical 

t < 


Greece, which he disliked fascinated him. In some ways they 
reminded him of Assyrian or Egyptian gems, and yet there were 
designs that included the octopus, which was undoubtedly 
Aegean. It was puzzling. 

The young man's name was Arthur Evans. 

In 1886, when he was sixty-four, Schliemann, restless as ever, 
was still seeking fresh Homeric sites to explore. Where could he 
go now? He had torn open the mound of Hissarlik. Mycenae had 
yielded up its gold. Orchomenos had been dug. Where else? 
There was "hundred-citied Crete," the domain of King Minos, of 
whom the historian %Taucyjji $&& .ha d ..written; 

Minos is the earliest ruler we know of who possessed a fleet, and 
controlled most of what are now Greek waters. He ruled the Cyclades, 
and was the first colonizer of most of them, installing his own sons as 
governors. In all probability he cleared the sea of pirates, so far as he 
could, to secure his own revenues. 

Of course, Thucydides had only been repeating a legendary 
story, but Schliemann had great faith in legend and folk tradition. 
And Homer had sung of the valiant spearman Idomeneus, leader 
of the Cretan contingent at the siege of Troy. 

... the men from Knossos, from Gortyn of the Great Walls, from 
Lyctus, Miletus, chalky Lycastus, Phaestus, and Rhytion, fine cities 
all of them. . . . 

Also, the Odyssey contains many Cretan stories. In 1883 
Schliemann applied to the Turkish Government, then ruling 
Crete, for permission to dig there. Naturally his request did not 
have an easy passage, but three years later, after he had finished 
his work at Tiryns, he arrived in Crete. 

Sir John Myres once told me that when he visited Crete as 
a young man, with Arthur Evans, there was a story that Schlie- 
mann, after being directed to the site of Knossos legendary 
capital of King Minos had sunk upon his knees and sent up a 
prayer to Idaean Zeus, offering thanks for safe guidance to die 
spot. This profoundly shocked the devout Moslems and was one 
reason why the German enthusiast had such difficulty in obtain- 
ing permission to dig in the island. Sir John does not vouch for 


the truth of the story, but ft accords well with Schliemann's 
known character. 

A few miles from Herakleion, in a valley rising towards the 
mountainous interior of Crete, rises the mound of Kephala, tradi- 
tional site of Knossos. Here, in 1877, the Spanish Consul had 
sunk five shafts and established the existence of a building 180 
feet long and 140 feet broad, but at very great depth. This was 
the site which Schliemann now sought to buy. The negotiations 
were complicated, and there are several conflicting stories about 
them which are unimportant to our story. But the owner of the 
site refused to agree to the sale of only part of his land. If the 
millionaire wanted it, he must buy the whole estate with all 
its olive trees for a hundred thousand francs. This was too much. 
Schliemann knew that in any case he would have to hand over 
all he found to the Turkish authorities, so he returned to Athens, 
leaving the peasant owner in suspense. 

Meanwhile England saw the great archaeologist again, when 
he came to London to answer, in public debate, the criticisms of 
the English architect Penrose, who asserted that Tiryns was of 
much later date than Schliemann had claimed. The Englishman 
was defeated and had the grace to apologize. Next Schliemann 
made two trips to Egypt, the second in 1888, with Virchow. 
When, in the following year, the Cretan landowner offered the 
site for forty thousand francs, Schliemann was pleased but wary, 
especially when he was informed that there was no need for him 
to visit the island to clinch the deal. A deposit would be enough. 
This was sufficient to bring out all the old merchant's commercial 
cunning. He arrived unexpectedly in Crete, and discovered that 
the owner of the land was trying to cheat him there were 
1,612 fewer olive trees than had been stipulated. True, the site of 
Knossos was still included, but this time Schliemann the business 
man triumphed over Schliemann the archaeologist. He broke off 
negotiations and never reopened them. 

A year later, after an operation on his ear in Halle, Germany, 
he was hurrying across Europe to be home for Christmas. The 
winter of 1890 was bitterly cold, and the doctors had warned him 
against travelling. But Schliemann longed to be home in his great 
house in Athens with Sophia and the children. Although often 
in pain, he continued his journey, getting out of the train at inter- 


vals, finding a local doctor who would treat him, and then con- 
tinuing on his way. Much of his life had been spent in ships and 
trains; travel was a tedious necessity, but he had the German's 
sentimental love of Christmas. He must be home in time. 

At Naples the pain returned, so ferociously that he was 
forced to cable Sophia, asking her to postpone the Christmas 
celebrations until his return. He saw a doctor, and obtained some 
relief. Then, feeling better, he decided to visit the ruins of Pom- 
peii, about which his father had spoken to him sixty years ago 
in Ankershagen. The weather was cold, and on his return Schlie- 
mann again felt the return of that fierce pain. Next day, Christ- 
mas Day, when he was on his way to the doctor, he collapsed in 
the street, paralyzed and unable to speak. Police took the un- 
known foreigner to hospital, but as no money could be found in 
his clothes, he was refused admission. 

Eventually the doctor who had treated him was traced 
through a paper in the sick man's pocket, and Schliemann, still 
unconscious, was moved to a hotel, where a surgeon discovered 
that the inflammation had spread from the ear to the brain. The 
next day, Boxing Day, while doctors in an adjoining room de- 
bated what should be done, Heinrich Schliemann quietly died. 

His journey was ended. But his discoveries the full signifi- 
cance of which he had not understood had launched other 
minds on a voyage which even Schliemann could hardly have 
imagined. One of these minds perhaps the greatest was that 
of the young Englishman who had been so absorbed by Schlie- 
mann's Mycenaean treasures when he and his wife had visited 
him eight years before. Many years later, when in the full tide 
of his own triumph, Sir Arthur Evans wrote of his great predeces- 

I had the happiness ... to make his acquaintance on the fields 
of his glory, and I still remember the echoes of his visits to England, 
which were his greatest scenes of triumph. . . . Something of the 
romance of his earlier years still seemed to cling to his personality, 
and I have myself an almost uncanny memory of the spare, slightly 
built man of sallow complexion and somewhat darkly clad wear- 
ing spectacles of foreign make, through which so fancy took me he 
had looked deep into the ground. 



"Out in the dark blue sea there lies a land called Crete, 
a rich and lovely land, washed by the waves on every side, 
densely peopled and boasting ninety cities. . . .One of the 
ninety towns is a great city called Knossos, and there, for 
nine years, King Minos ruled and enjoyed the friendship of 
almighty Zeus." 

So Homer makes Odysseus describe Crete, in that famous pas- 
sage from the Odyssey in which the "Cunning One" pretends to 
Penelope that he is the grandson of Minos. Homer had almost 
certainly visited Crete, for, with one of those topographical 
details of which he is so fond, he tells us, on the same page, that 
his hero 

. . . put in at Amnissus, where the cave of Eileithyia is a difficult 
harbour to make; the storm nearly wrecked him. 

I visited that cave shortly after I landed in Crete with the 
de Jongs. Piet de Jong, former architect to Sir Arthur Evans, was 
Curator of the Palace of Minos at Knossos, to which he and his 
wife were returning after their overseas leave. We had met in 
Athens, after my return from Mycenae and Tiryns, and they had 
kindly invited me to stay at the Villa Ariadne, Sir Arthur's former 
home at Knossos, which he had later given to the British School 
at Athens. De Jong is a quietly spoken Yorkshireman of about 
fifty, with a lean, tanned face and steady eyes; he is a little taci- 
turn until he has decided whether he likes you or not, but kind, 
friendly and willing to give the benefit of his vast practical knowl- 
edge of the Palace to anyone whose interest goes a little deeper 
than tourist level. His wife, Effie, is a Scotswoman, as voluble 
and vivacious as he is shy; witty, observant and wickedly intelli- 
gent, she has an unending stock of stories, about archaeology 



and archaeologists, about Crete and the Cretans, and about Sir 
Arthur Evans, the great scholar and excavator of the Knossian 
Palace, whom they had both known well and greatly admired. 

As we flew south over the many-islanded Aegean, I felt that 
I was regretfully leaving the ghost of Heinrich Schliemann be- 
hind. At Mycenae and Tiryns I had almost felt his physical 
presence, so vividly is his personality associated with those 
places. But in Athens I said farewell to his lively shade ap- 
propriately enough, outside his fantastic palace, lliou Melathron, 
which stands in University Street, opposite the airline company's 
office, where I had waited with the de Jongs for the airport bus. 
Schliemann's marble statues still fret the Athenian sky, though 
now they look down on a street crowded with shining American 
motorcars and the noisiest tramcars in the world. And even as 
our aircraft soared above the beach of Phaleron, I remembered 
that Schliemann used to bathe there before breakfast in the 
coldest weather, even when he was quite old. "Go for walks! 
Bathe!" he would say to fat, red-necked men, "or youll die of 

Now I was passing into the orbit of another personality, as 
strong as that of Schliemann, but much more sophisticated and 
complex. When Sir Arthur Evans died, in 1941, at the age of 
ninety, he had done that which no one man had ever been able 
to achieve before written, alone, a new chapter in the history of 
civilization. Yet, in a sense, his work was complementary to that 
of Schliemann. He built on foundations which Schliemann had 
laid; and for all their many differences in character and tempera- 
ment, they were in three ways alike. Both were rich men. Both 
were egotists of genius, accustomed to getting their own way 
and using their wealth to achieve great ends. And both became 
archaeologists in the middle age, 1 after successful careers in other 
fields. As the plane droned on over the sea, I looked through my 
notes and began to recall what I knew of Evans's career. 

Arthur Evans was born in 1851, the year in which twenty- 
nine-year-old Heinrich Schliemann was buying gold dust from 

1 Although Evans had been keenly interested in archaeology since his 
early youth, he did not excavate on a large scale until he dug at Knossos. 


the "f orty-niners" of California. The child grew up near the sedate 
little town of Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire, at a place 
called Nash Mills. Here stood the long-established paper- 
manufacturing works of John Dickinson & Company. John Evans, 
Arthur's father, had married his cousin, Harriet Ann Dickinson, 
whose father, John Dickinson, was then head of the firm. 

The Evans and Dickinson families were closely linked by 
marriage, and both had produced a number of distinguished 
scholars; the tradition of learning in the family was strong. Ar- 
thur's great grandfather, Lewis Evans, had been a member of 
the Royal Society; so had his great uncle, John Dickinson. His 
own father, John Evans, was a distinguished geologist, anti- 
quarian and collector, Fellow and Treasurer of the Royal So- 
ciety, and, to quote Sir John Myres, "a leading member of that 
group of men including Lubbock, Tylor, Francis Galton, and 
Pitt-Rivers who established the new studies of anthropology 
and prehistoric archaeology on a scientific basis in this country." 

Arthur grew up in an atmosphere heavy with Victorian 
scholarship. In his father's study at Nash Mills were cases of flint 
and bronze implements; his father's scholarly friends met often 
in the comfortably ugly house beside the river, to talk and discuss 
and prepare their papers for presentation to the learned societies. 
In the summer Arthur and his brothers, Lewis and Norman, 
went on excursions with their father, flint collecting in Britain 
or France. Of his two brothers, Arthur had more in common 
with Lewis than with Norman, who was gay, irresponsible and 
charming, and who eventually quarrelled with his father and 
went for a time to America. But both Lewis and Arthur inherited 
their father's scholarly interests, and early in life Arthur acquired 
the habit of collecting. Coins especially fascinated him, and in 
this study he was helped, to some degree, by a physical handicap. 
In Time and Chance, Dr. Joan Evans's sensitive portrayal of her 
half brother, occurs this passage: 

Evans was extremely short-sighted, and a reluctant wearer of 
glasses. Without them, he could see small things held a few inches 
from his eyes in extraordinary detail, while everything else was a vague 
blur. Consequently the details he saw with microscopic exactitude, tin- 
distracted by the outside world, had a greater significance for him than 
for other men [my italics]. 


It was this seeming handicap of short sight which even- 
tually led Arthur Evans to Crete, and enabled him to reveal and 
interpret a civilization as highly developed as that of Egypt. 
Evans was able to do this because of his minute, almost micro- 
scopic vision of the tiny Cretan bead seals and signet rings, the 
study of which brought him at last to the Palace of Minos. But 
that comes later in the story. 

It would be a mistake, however, to imagine the young Evans 
as a timid, myopic youngster, interested only in anthropology and 
numismatics (the study of ancient coins). True, he was short 
in stature and nearsighted, and at Harrow he took no interest 
in games (he lampooned the "hearties" in his own satirical 
magazine The Pen-Viper which was suppressed after publica- 
tion of the first number). But he had a wiry, energetic frame, 
swam and rode well, and enjoyed strong physical effort provided 
it did not take the form of organized games, which bored him. 
He loved travel especially "travelling rough" and throughout 
his youth and early middle age delighted in long, adventurous 
journeys, mainly on foot or on horseback, in the more primitive 
parts of eastern Europe. He had courage, obstinacy, a hot temper 
and a determined will. 

At Harrow he tied with Frank Balfour for the Natural His- 
tory Prize, for which T. H. Huxley was assessor. At Oxford, 
where he was a member of Brasenose College, he read history, 
and varied his Long Vacations between adventurous trips to 
eastern Europe and periods of intensive study in of all places 
Broadway Tower, in Worcestershire. This extraordinary "Folly" 
of one of the eighteenth-century Earls of Coventry stands on the 
northwestern fringe of the Cotswold Hills, overlooking seven 
counties. Arthur shared the upper part of the Tower with a friend, 
while the caretaker and his wife, who lived below, looked after 
the two young men. 

It is typical of Evans that, recognizing how similar was his 
father's mind to his own, he set about being as different from him 
as possible. They were both antiquarians, and they were both 
collectors. But as he grew older, Arthur's antiquarian interests 
diverged boldly from those of his father, and when in later life 
old John Evans left him his enormous and bulky collection of 
Stone Age implements and weapons, the younger man was more 
embarrassed than grateful. His chief interest at the time was in 


the Balkan countries, an interest which grew into an ardent pas- 
sion after his first visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina 2 in 1871. 

It is not an exaggeration to say that Arthur Evans fell in 
love with the South Slav countries. The landscape, especially the 
glorious Dalmatian coast; the architecture the fascinating mix- 
ture of cultures Roman, Byzantine, Venetian, Moslem; above 
all, the tough, liberty-loving people; all took his young heart. At 
this period Bosnia and Herzegovina were under the heavy, brutal 
hand of Turkey. There were Balkan insurrectionary movements, 
bloody repressions, lootings, burnings, tortures, flights of ref- 
ugees the same sickening pattern with which our own age has 
made us familiar. But to young liberal intellectuals of Evans's 
type such outrages were a challenge to action. Arthur (he was 
then twenty) became a convinced Liberal, a follower of Glad- 
stone whom his Conservative father detested and a champion 
of the oppressed minorities of eastern Europe. He signalized his 
arrival in Paris by buying a magnificent black cloak lined with 
scarlet silk, but, as the smoke of the Franco-Prussian War had 
hardly blown away, he took the advice of a friendly douanier, 
who warned him that, if he wore it, he might be shot as a spy. He 
put the cloak away; but it came in useful later. 

In the following year he spent his vacation mountaineering 
in Roumania with his brother Norman, and from there moved 
into Bulgaria. Next year, 1873, he toured some of the Scan- 
dinavian countries Sweden, Finland and Lapland. He was not 
impressed, because, as Joan Evans comments: 

To feel at home in strangeness he needed to find there a complex 
civilization, and a sense of the historic past. In Lapland no ghosts 

though perhaps it would be fairer to say that there were no 
ghosts with whom Arthur Evans felt any sympathy. 

Eighteen seventy-four saw him back in his lofty eyrie in 
Broadway Tower, looking down on the rich summer wealth of 
the Vale of Evesham, and working hard for his Finals. Next year 
he obtained a First in Modern History, after which he went to 
Gottingen for a further year's study, before applying himself to 

9 Incorporated after the First World War into the new state of Yugoslavia. 


the problem of earning a living. He had no interest in paper 
making; an academic career seemed the only alternative. He tried 
for vacant Fellowships at Magdalen and All Souls, but failed to 
get either, partly, perhaps, because his intransigent nature and 
unpopular opinions were not acceptable to the more conservative 
elements of Oxford society. For, by this time, Arthur Evans was 
developing into an enfant terrible, steeped in Balkan politics. 

He returned to Bosnia with his brother Lewis. At Brood they 
had both been arrested as Russian spies, a situation in which 
Arthur s pugnacity did not help matters. He was in Bosnia during 
the insurrection of 1875; he was in Sarajevo when Herzegovina 
revolted against Turkey. Both Moslem and Christian insurgents 
liked him and treated him well, but his letters home were full 
of biting criticism of the British Government's lukewarm attitude 
to the cause of Balkan freedom. It was not unnatural that British 
and other European statesmen were reluctant to jeopardize the 
peace of Europe for the sake of the oppressed peoples of Bosnia 
and Herzegovina, however heroic and deserving. But the young 
firebrand who had lived among these peoples, seen their suffer- 
ings and identified himself passionately with them, had no pa- 
tience with the subtleties of Great Power diplomacy. 

He produced a book on Bosnia and Herzegovina, sent a copy 
to Gladstone (who acknowledged it) and was delighted when the 
G.O.M. quoted his evidence on Turkish atrocities. Next year, 
1877, the Great Powers again shuffled the cards and Evans's un- 
happy Bosnians found their country occupied by Austria. C. P. 
Scott, the great editor of the Manchester Guardian pro-Glad- 
stone and anti-Turk appointed Arthur as Special Correspondent 
in the Balkans, based in Ragusa. This was a job after the young 
man's heart. He set off enthusiastically with a sum of money and 
goods for the refugees, contributed by British sympathizers. 

The next few years were the peak years of Evans's youth, 
and they are fully described in Joan Evans's Time and Chance. 
Here we only have time for the highlights. We catch glimpses 
of Arthur exploring, at some personal risk, the country occupied 
by the insurgents; plunging depths of sordid horror in the in- 
fested refugee camps; seeking out and interviewing Desptovitch, 
the insurgent leader, in his stronghold; swimming a flooded 
river, naked, with notebook and pencils stuck in his hat; wearing 


his red-lined cloak inside out when visiting a Moslem stronghold 
(trying to look as Oriental as possible); and sending back dis- 
patch after brilliant dispatch to his delighted editor. Later these 
"Letters to the Manchester Guardian' were published as a book. 

Nevertheless, in the midst of his political and journalistic 
activities, he found time to excavate Roman buildings, explore 
medieval castles, copy out old Bosnian inscriptions and to add, 
as a postscript to an adventure-packed letter home, "tell Pa 
IVe got a new flat celt." Archaeology and numismatics still re- 
tained their hold upon him. After his adventures in the hinterland 
he returned to Ragusa, more in love with the Balkans than ever. 
He soon became a familiar, eccentric figure in that lovely city. 
Because of his short sight he carried throughout his life a stout 
walking stick, to which his family gave the name "Prodger." 
Ragusans soon became familiar with Evans and Prodger the 
"mad Englishman with the walking stick" who was believed to 
carry with him a bag of gold. . . . 

Then began a personal conflict between the young journalist 
and Holmes, the British Consul at Sarajevo, who advised his 
Government not to accept stories of Turkish atrocities. Evans 
went out to get evidence it was on one of these dangerous 
journeys that he swam an icy river, swollen with rain and melting 
snow, to visit an insurgent outpost. Soon the Guardian began to 
receive fully documented evidence of burned-out villages, and 
lists of victims' names; evidence which even the British Consul 
could not discredit. Evans won his battle. 

Then war broke out between the Turks and Montenegro. 
Again the young correspondent went out on his journeys, some- 
times on foot, sometimes on horseback, always returning with 
vivid dispatches. While in the Montenegrin highlands, covering 
this story, Evans heard that an old Oxford friend, Freeman, the 
historian, was visiting Ragusa for a short time with his two 
daughters. Arthur greatly admired Freeman, who had taken a 
leading part in organizing Balkan relief in England. In his 
anxiety to get to Ragusa before the Freemans left, he rode non- 
stop for seven hours, just missed the steamer at a vital ferry, took 
a small boat and rowed himself across the sea channel, took a 
horse on the other side and rode all through the next day to 
reach Ragusa. 


"He has acquired," wrote Evans's sister about this time, 
"a slightly insurgent expression. . . ." Margaret Freeman, who 
had not seen the young scholar since she knew him several years 
earlier in Oxford, met a lithe, active, bronzed young man "not," 
wrote his sister cautiously, "without charm." Margaret fell in 
love with him, and in February, 1878, when both were back in 
England, they became engaged. Characteristically (Margaret 
was also a scholar), the two celebrated their engagement by 
going to see the exhibition of antiquities from Troy, brought to 
London by Dr. Heinrich Schliemann. 

The de Jongs and I were about halfway between Athens and 
Crete. Our aircraft rumbled drowsily on above the wintry blue 
of the Aegean. A tiny ship drew a broadening line of white across 
the misted, sunlit water. Schliemann, like Homer, had travelled 
to Crete in a ship. But Evans had Evans flown? I turned in my 
seat to ask Piet de Jong. 

"Oh, yes, he liked flying. He used to fly regularly even as 
far back as the 'twenties, when flying wasn't as safe and as 
commonplace as it is now. He'd try anything new. . . ." 

"And in any case sea travel always made him horribly ill," 
added Effie, "so that a long sea trip was agony for him. But 
flying never upset him." 

I showed them the passage in my notes describing Evans's 
famous walking stick, Prodger. They both smiled at the recollec- 

"That stick of his," laughed Piet, "it was a part of him. 
It was like a staff of office you just can't imagine Sir Arthur 
without it. I tell you," he went on, leaning forward to emphasize 
his point, "I've been walking down Piccadilly with Sir Arthur 
in the middle of the day, when the place was crammed with 
cars and he's seen a friend on the other side of the road or a 
window with something which interested him, and, by gum, 
off he's gone, slap-bang into the middle of the traffic, waving 
that darned stick over his head and expecting the cars to give 
way to him! And they did, too." 

"Just as if he was in Herakleion," added Effie. 

"He was something of an autocrat?" I asked. 


''Call him that if you like. . . . No, not really. But he was a 
kind of benevolent despot, a grand seigneur some of the Cretans 
were afraid of him. But he loved Crete." 

"Of course/' Piet went on, "we only knew him well in later 
life, when he was rich and established, and settled in his ways. 
But even as a young man I think he must have had an iron will. 
And he loved a fight. Look at the way he fought the Austrians on 
behalf of his beloved Bosnians until he was deported. And 
then, what does he do but go home and begin another fight 
with the University authorities over the Ashmolean Museum. 
And all that was long before he came to Crete." 

"He was like Schliemann in that way," added Mrs. de Jong. 
"They both had successful careers long before they took up 

She and her husband returned to their books. I looked down 
for a while, half hypnotized by the endlessly moving pattern of 
waves which creased the surface of Homer's "wine-dark sea." 
. . . Then, with an effort, I turned again to my notes, to the 
world which Arthur Evans knew when he was young. 



AFTER his marriage to Margaret Freeman in 1878, Arthur took 
his bride to his beloved Ragusa. They bought a particularly 
beautiful Venetian house, the Casa San Lazzaro, and made their 
home there. He still continued to act as correspondent for the 
Manchester Guardian, but devoted himself principally to the 
history, antiquities and politics of the Southern Slav people and 
their countries. 

Meanwhile, he continued to archaeologize. We see him ex- 
cavating burial mounds, buying Greek and Roman coins, study- 
ing Dalmatian history, and rhapsodizing, in lyrical letters to his 
family, over the superb Venetian buildings of Ragusa, and the 
Illyrian landscape. But Margaret, though as devoted to him as 
he was to her, could not accommodate herself to Ragusa. She 
had no taste for the picturesque, and dirt worried her. The 
climate, the strange food, the flies, fleas and mosquitoes, all dis- 
tressed her until, eventually, her health broke down. And there 
were other troubles. In 18SO she returned home to undergo an 
operation, in the hope that it would enable her to bear children; 
in this it was not successful. 

In the following year a fresh insurrection broke out against 
the Austriaris. Immediately Evans left for the insurgent citadel 
at Crivoscia, seat of the rebellion, and soon readers of the Man- 
chester Guardian were again reading dispatches from his bril- 
liant pen, in which every Austrian reverse was delightedly ac- 

It was no secret that Evans and his English friends, passion- 
ately believing in the insurrectionary movement, were hoping 
for a rising of all the Slav peoples. This was too much for the 
Austrian authorities at Ragusa. Evans became a marked man. 
His house, his wife, his servants were watched, and when it 



became evident (for he had little skill in subterfuge) that meet- 
ings were taking place at the Casa San Lazzaro between people 
known to be sympathetic to the insurgents, Evans and his wife 
were given notice to quit. When he took no action, he was eventu- 
ally arrested and lodged in Ragusa jail. On April 23, 1881, he 
was examined, found guilty, released and immediately expelled 
from the country, with his wife. They arrived back in England, 
to be met by a relieved and delighted family. One of them wrote: 

Arthur has been capering in and out of the house all day, bearing 
Prodger and visiting the raspberries. 

Another letter says: 

He has had a lesson which will keep him at home I hope. 

But any hope which the more timid members of the family 
entertained, that Arthur would at last "settle down," was soon 
dashed. Restless, dissatisfied, he longed to go abroad again, 
knowing that his heart was in Ragusa; but for the time being he 
knew he must find a niche in academic Oxford. 

But travel, study and a questing, adventurous mind had 
made Arthur Evans difficult to accommodate in a conventional 
university professorship. He was an archaeologist, but he had no 
sympathy with the way archaeology was taught at Oxford, nor 
with the "classical" outlook of such men as Jowett, the Vice- 
Chancellor. Thus, as he wrote gloomily to his friend Freeman, 
who shared his views: 

. . . there is going to be established a Professorship of Archaeol- 
ogy, and I have been strongly advised to stand. I do not think I shall, 
unless I see any real prospect of getting it; and to say the truth I 
see very little. To begin with, it is to be called the Professorship of 
Classical Archaeology, and I understand that the Electors, including 
Jowett and Newton of the British Museum (who prevented me from 
getting the Archaeological Travelling Studentship of old) regard "ar- 
chaeology" as ending with the Christian Era. Anyhow, to confine a 
professorship of archaeology to classical times seems to me as reason- 
able as to create a chair of "Insular Geography" or "Mezozoic Geol- 
ogy." . . . 


Freeman, in a sympathetic reply to this letter, advised Evans 
to apply, while warning him that "they will have some narrow 
Balliol fool, suspending all sound learning at the end of his 
crooked nose, to represent self-satisfied ignorance against you, 
but I would go in just to tell them a thing or two." 

The chair eventually went to Percy Gardner, a "classical** 
archaeologist after Newton's own heart. 

At the end of April, Arthur and Margaret set off on a tour 
of Greece. It was during this trip that they called on the Schlie- 
manns, as described in an earlier chapter. Evans was fascinated 
by the Mycenaean gems, arms and ornaments found in the shaft 
graves, but not because he shared the German's view that they 
were Homeric. To the Englishman they seemed far older. There 
was something in their style neither Hellenic, nor Egyptian, 
nor Oriental to which his fastidious mind immediately re- 
sponded. He spent hours examining them, while Margaret talked 
to Sophia Schliemann. 

For Arthur Evans, as will have been noticed in his com- 
ments on the university authorities, refused to make the conven- 
tional obeisance to "classical" Greek art. He detested the type of 
narrow academic mind, fundamentally unaesthetic, which would 
not admit of other standards. His mind was free-ranging, indi- 
vidual and sensitive, and to him the so-called "Mycenaean" art 
vigorous yet controlled, aristocratic in spirit, yet humane had a 
far greater appeal. It satisfied yet puzzled him. Where had it 
originated? To what culture or group of cultures was it related? 
This problem seemed to his sophisticated intelligence far more 
important than old Heinrich's endeavors to relate Mycenaean art 
to the world of Homer. It was a problem to which he was to re- 
turn again and again during the coming years, though more than 
a decade was to pass before he discovered the answer. 

He visited Tiryns and Mycenae scene of Schliemann's tri- 
umphs and was fascinated, especially by the Lion Gate with its 
headless lions supporting that strange central column so dif- 
ferent from Greek "classical" architecture. Where had it origi- 
nated at Mycenae? In Greece? Or elsewhere? Evans won- 
dered. . . . 

Returning to Oxford, the Evanses set up house in Broad 
Street, enlivening the somber Victorian rooms with bright Dal- 


matian fabrics which reminded them of the sunlight and color 
of Ragusa. . . . 

Next year Arthur obtained a university appointment at last 
but one which seemed, at first sight, to hold little promise 
for his ardent, impetuous spirit. 

He became, at the age of thirty-three, Curator of the Ash- 
molean Museum. In 1884, this Museum, founded in the seven- 
teenth century by Elias Ashmole, had been so neglected, abused 
and mutilated by later generations that it had almost ceased to 
have any practical value. In fact, its condition accurately reflected 
the indifference with which archaeology was regarded by Vice- 
Chancellor Jowett and other high officers of the University. 
"After long neglect," writes Sir John Myres, "stripped of its coins 
and manuscripts by the Bodleian, and its natural history collec- 
tions for the New University Museum; it was embarrassed with 
architectural casts collected by the 'Oxford Society for the study 
of Gothic Architecture'; there was disorder and neglect within; 
it was enclosed by other buildings which precluded enlarge- 
ment; and it had a rival in the University Galleries since Ruskin's 
tenure of the Slade Chair of Fine Art." 

But to Arthur Evans all this was a challenge. He set about, 
in his combative spirit, to fight for the Ashmolean as a revived 
center of archaeological studies. The Bodleian had taken the 
coins, had they? Right, then they must hand them back. Old 
Tradescant's gallery had been gutted and turned into an exam- 
ination room, had it? Then, he, Arthur Evans, would restore it 
to its original function; not only that, but he knew a distinguished 
collector of Renaissance art, Drury Fortnum, who was only wait- 
ing to hand over his magnificent collection to the University if 
suitable accommodation was provided for it. And what could be 
more suitable than the Tradescant Gallery? 

He found the death mask of old Tradescant rolling about 
in the dust of the Ashmolean's cellar, together with that of 
Bethlen Gabor. He restored them both to a place of honor. Fi- 
nally, he drew up detailed plans for a revived and glorified 
Ashmolean, improved, modernized, restored. In high spirits he 
went to Jowett to obtain his approval of the plans. But the Vice- 
Chancellor asked to be excused. He was very busy. He had not 
time to look at the plans because he was about to leave Oxford 


for a month. In any case, he pointed out, the University could 
not afford to spend money on the Ashmolean at present because 
much was needed for the new professorships. Arthur returned 
to the house in Broad Street, fuming. 

The family held its breath. There was going to be a fight, 
and Arthur dearly loved a fight. "I can see him/' wrote a rela- 
tive, "snuffing up the tainted breeze and pawing like a war- 
horse. . . ." 

The struggle was long and hard. Evans, reluctantly com- 
pelled to become a politician, disciplined himself to wait, ma- 
noeuvre and bargain. Drury Fortnum again offered his collection 
to Oxford with a handsome endowment, provided the University 
would consider the creation of a Central Museum of Art and 
Archaeology under tJie Keeper of the Ashmolean. The governing 
body of the Museum was easily won over, but Jowett held out 
until, at last, finding himself in a minority of one, he was forced 
to agree. Evans's report was adopted. He celebrated the occasion 
by giving a party tor two hundred guests in the limelit Upper 
Gallery of the Museum. 

Even then he had to struggle for years to obtain adequate 
funds for the revived and reconstituted Ashmolean. But uni- 
versity politics and administration bored him, and he sought re- 
lief, whenever possible, in archaeological research (at Aylesford 
he dug a late Celtic urn field) and in foreign travel with his 
wife. They visited the Crimea, Yalta, Kertch, Batum, Tiflis, 
Greece and Bulgaria, on the frontier of which they were arrested 
on suspicion of being spies, and Margaret wrote, "I don't know 
what I should have done without my 'bug-puzzler'. ... In two 
nights we killed 221 plus 118 plus 90 equals 429. . . ." This was 
in the year 1890. One wonders if the young girl students of to- 
day trousered or not would equal Margaret's equanimity, if 
faced with a similar situation. 

Arthur's other interest was in numismatics, in which he 
brought imagination to bear on what might appear to the layman 
to be an arid study. For example, his recognition, on tiny Sicilian 
coins, of artists' signatures so small that only his microscopic 
sight could detect them, enabled him to establish a chronological 
test of styles and of political relations between Sicilian cities. It 
was this feeling for style, in all its subtle ramifications, which 


enabled him, in later life, to interpret the details of Minoan 
civilization as revealed in the miniature seals of Crete. 

"It is," writes Sir John Myres, "a pecularity of Ashmole's 
Keepership that its conditions of residence are so liberal that 
travel is possible and presumed; on the other hand the Keeper 
is expected to give occasional public lectures on the progress of 
studies which concern the Museum. For a man of Evans's qualifi- 
cations and temperament it was the ideal post, and it is to the 
years of his Keepership that the greater part of his learned out- 
put belongs. But between the earlier and later activities 1894 
marks a crisis; for it was early in that year that he first visited 

While gathering material for this book, I had the good 
fortune and privilege to meet the late Sir John Myres, and was 
able to settle a question which had puzzled me for some time: 
how Sir Arthur Evans, whose background was mainly in the 
Balkan countries and whose principal interest lay in numismatics, 
came to be so closely associated with Crete. 

"For more than a generation," Sir John told me, "Continental 
opinion had attributed most of the characteristic features of 
Greek civilization to Egyptian and Mesopotamian influences. 
But in about 1890 there was a reaction, and in 1893 Solomon 
Reinach brought out a book called Le Mirage Oriental, which 
made a formal challenge to all Orientalizing theories. Reinach 
contended that the West had, throughout, shown a large measure 
of originality and genius of its own. Evans, as shown from his 
studies in Celtic archaeology which he had just completed, was 
greatly impressed with this alternative point of view. 

"At that time," Sir John went on, "I was still an undergradu- 
ate, while Evans was usually travelling abroad, and I didn't 
actually meet him until I had finished my examinations. I first 
met him at a party in North Oxford. We had a little talk, and I 
told him of my project of going to Greece and doing some work 
on prehistoric civilization there. 

"He encouraged me to go ahead, and said that he would 
see me when I came back. And in July and August, 1892, I 
went to Crete, travelling over a good part of the west of the 

Sitting with Sir John in his study, in his quiet, old-fashioned 


house near the Woodstock Road, watching his fine, white-bearded 
face (like an old Norse king), I could not help thinking of the 
"young black-bearded Ulysses" with whom Arthur Evans, only 
ten years older himself, grubbed for Mycenaean fragments be- 
neath the "Pelasgian" wall of the Athenian Acropolis in 1892. 
Of the young Myres, Evans wrote home to his wife: 

I am glad to find Myres here, who is at once Craven Scholar, 
and Burdett Coutts, and is combining geology and archaeology in a 
useful way. We worked at Mycenaean rings, grubbed under the Te- 
lasgian" wall of the Acropolis, picked up fragments of pre-Mycenaean 
vases. Heard Dorpfeld lecture on his discovery of the fountain of 
Enneakrounos; but he has been finding it at different spots for 
months. . . . 

Tempora mutantur . . . Schliemann's brilliant assistant was 
no longer the power he had been. 

In the following year Margaret died. Her health had never 
recovered completely after her breakdown at Ragusa. Typically, 
she was accompanying her husband on one of his Mediterranean 
journeys. It was at Alassio that she was suddenly seized with 
violent spasms of pain and died within a few hours, holding 
Arthur's hand. 

"I do not think anyone can ever know what Margaret has 
been to me," he wrote to his father. "All seems very dark, and 
without consolation. ... I will try to call up her brave, prac- 
tical spirit, but one must have time to recover strength." 

But 1893, a tragic year for Arthur Evans, was also a turning 
point in his life. His stay in Athens in February and March had 
confirmed his interest in Mycenaean art. Working over the tiny 
objects from Schliemann's discoveries at Mycenae and Tiryns, 
he had an intuition of discovery. 

In that year, while searching among the trays of the an- 
tiquity dealers in Shoe Lane, Athens, he and Myres came across 
small three- and four-sided stones drilled along the axis, engraved 
with symbols which seemed to belong to some hieroglyphic 
system. Of course, most antiquarians were, by this time, familiar 
with Egyptian hieroglyphic writing, but that such a system had 
once existed in Europe seemed inconceivable. Yet here, in these 
tiny seals and signet rings, seen under Evans's intense, micro- 


scopic gaze, there appeared to be tiny symbols which might rep- 
resent writing. Evans asked the dealer where these seals had come 

"From Crete," he was told. 

He pondered for a long time on this problem. He had al- 
ready considered Crete, which, as a convenient stepping stone, 
practically equidistant from Europe, Asia and Egypt, might have 
provided a stage in the diffusion of a hieroglyphic script. He 
had considered the possibility that some of the Ancient Egyp- 
tian reliefs depicting invaders of the Nile Valley might represent 
among them peoples of the Aegean islands. He had already met 
the gentle, lovable Italian archaeologist, Frederico Halbherr, who 
had begun to excavate Cretan sites a year before. Then there was 
Stillman, an American journalist, and Joubin, of the French 
School at Athens. They also had wished to dig in Crete but had 
been prevented by the Turkish authorities. Yet, with care and 
patience, and the discreet use of cash, something might be accom- 
plished. . . . 

In the spring of 1894, Arthur Evans set foot in Crete for the 
first time. 

From the moment he landed at Herakleion, he felt at home. 
At Ragusa he had loved Venetian architecture. Here, at Herak- 
leion, the Lion of St. Mark was carved on the battlements of the 
great Venetian wall which surrounded the city. There were noble 
Venetian buildings, and, since Crete was still under Turkish 
rule, mosques stood side by side with Christian churches. There 
was a blending of European and Oriental races. There was a 
dramatic landscape of jagged limestone peaks, precipitous ra- 
vines, valleys of an idyllic greenness in spring, beaches of white 
sand gleaming through a sea of deep, translucent blue. And 
above all, there was an all-pervading, impermeable sense of his- 
tory. Cretans, Hellenes, Romans, Franks, Venetians, Turks all 
had left their mark on the island. 

Homer had known it. Here was the legendary home of 
King Minos and his daughter, the Princess Ariadne, who gave to 
the hero Theseus the precious thread which guided him to her 
arms after he had slain the Minotaur, Zeus, King of Gods, had 
been born here. On the north of the island rose snow-capped 
Mount Ida, where, it was said, one could still find the sacred 


cave in which Zeus had been born. And immediately behind 
the port of Herakleion, on the north, lay Mount Jukta, legendary 
tomb of the god. Why, said the inhabitants, if you only looked 
at the mountain from a certain angle and in a certain light, you 
could see the recumbent profile of Zeus himself! 

Like Schliemann, Evans made his way to the legendary site 
of Knossos, a few miles from Herakleion. Here, surely, thought 
Evans, he might find further examples of his bead-seal "picto- 
graphs" and much more. Perhaps he might find engraved tablets 
like the Egyptian "Rosetta Stone/' with a bilingual inscription 
which might give the clue to the primitive Cretan language. 

A Cretan gentleman, appropriately named Minos, had al- 
ready dug trenches at Knossos and revealed massive walls, and 
a store of huge pithoi (stone jars). This was more than enough 
to whet Evans's appetite. Boldly announcing that he was acting 
on behalf of the "Cretan Exploration Fund" (at that time non- 
existent), he acquired a share of the site from the local Moslem 
landowner. This was not much use to him at all, except for the 
vital fact that, under Ottoman law, it gave him a veto on excava- 
tion by anyone else. Five years later, when the Turkish forces 
left Crete, and Prince George of Greece became High Commis- 
sioner of the Powers Great Britain, France, Italy and Russia 
Evans returned, acquired the freehold of the remainder of the 
site and prepared to dig. This time the Cretan Exploration Fund 
actually came into existence, with Prince George of Greece as 
patron. "The British School of Archaeology at Athens was also 
associated with the work," writes Myres, "in the person of its 
Director, D. G. Hogarth, whose experience of excavation on a 
large scale was invaluable; subscriptions came in, and digging 
began in the winter." 

Even before the first spade was thrust in the soil of Knossos, 
Evans was convinced that in Crete, whose landscape, traditions 
and people had won his heart, he would find the clue to that 
earlier, pre-Hellenic world to which Schliemann's finds at My- 
cenae had pointed the way. In the years before he began to dig, 
he returned to Crete again and again, exploring, alone and with 
his friend Myres, the length and breadth of the island. On one 
occasion, Sir John told me, they climbed up onto the Lasithi 
highlands, and explored the great sanctuary cave of Zeus at 


Psychro. "From there," he went on, "we travelled along a great 
Minoan prehistoric road, with embankments, bridges, and forts, 
and came back by another route, visiting many villages, and in- 
quiring everywhere for engraved seal-stones. These were greatly 
valued by the Cretan women as charms when they were nursing 
their babies they called them 'milk-stones/ " 

These "milk-stones" of which many fine examples can be 
seen today in the Ashmolean Museum, are lens-shaped, round, 
or sometimes oval, and are perforated from side to side for sus- 
pension from a thread. The ancient Cretan people wore them 
round their necks or on their wrists, like the modern identity 
bracelet. And that, in fact, appears to have been their function 
the ancient equivalent of an identity card. Each was engraved 
with a design, usually pictorial, but often with hieroglyphic 
signs. They were the owner's badge, which he could put on his 
property as a mark or seal. These tiny seals, with their miniature 
scenes, fascinated Evans, and his search for them led him into 
the remotest parts of the island; everywhere he found signs of a 
once-flourishing civilization, remains of palaces and cities, many 
of them in the wildest and most inaccessible places. But hardly 
anywhere did he find evidence of Hellenic or "classical" remains. 
He was able to write, even before he dug at Knossos: 

The great days of Crete were those of which we still find a reflec- 
tion in the Homeric poems the period of Mycenaean culture, to 
which here at least we would fain attach the name "Mirioan" . . . 
[after Minos]. Nothing more continually strikes the archaeological ex- 
plorer of its ancient remains than the comparative paucity and unim- 
portance of the relics of the historic period. . . . The golden age of 
Crete lies far beyond the limits of the historical period; its culture not 
only displays within the three seas a uniformity never afterwards at- 
tained, but it is practically identical with that of the Peloponnese and 
a large part of the Aegean world. 

In March, 1899, Evans returned to Crete in the middle of 
one of the worst storms in human memory. He brought with 
him D. G. Hogarth, who was eleven years younger than himself, 
but much more experienced in the technique of excavation, and 
Duncan Mackenzie, a soft-spoken Scotsman with "a brush of 
red hair, an uncertain temper, a great command of languages and 


great experience in keeping the records of an excavation." Losing 
no time, they recruited Cretan workmen and set them to work 
digging into the mound of Kephala at Knossos. 

Almost at once a great labyrinth of buildings was revealed. 
By March twenty-seventh, Arthur Evans was able to note in his 
diary: "The extraordinary phenomenon nothing Greek nothing 
Roman perhaps one single fragment of late black varnished 
ware among tens of thousands. Even Geometrical (seventh cen- 
tury B.C. ) pottery fails us though as tholoi ( tombs ) found near 
the central road show, a flourishing Knossos existed lower down. 
. . . Nay, its great period goes at least well back to the pre- 
Mijcenaean period." 

Evans had come to decipher a system of writing, but before 
a month had passed, he knew that he had discovered a civiliza- 



THE ancient cave of Eileithyia is a black hole in the bare hill- 
side a few miles east of Herakleion. Though quite near the road 
which twists up into the hills, the low, beetling entrance to the 
cave is half hidden by a fig tree, so that without our driver's help 
I doubt if we should have found it. 

The three of us, the de Jongs and myself, sat on the slope 
above the cave, looking down the bracken-covered slopes to 
where the waves broke on the beach, far below. So calm was 
the afternoon that their murmur reached us, like a soft whisper; 
so clear the atmosphere that the islet of Dia a nymph, favored 
by Zeus, whom angry Hera had turned into a sea monster looked 
only a stone's throw from the height where we sat. 

A small river, the Amnissus, came in from a side valley and 
emptied itself unobtrusively into the Aegean. Thousands of 
years ago there had been a port at its mouth, which Odysseus 
had known "he put in at Amnissus, where the cave of Eileithyia 
is" but it had silted up long ago, and Herakleion had long 
since taken its place as the principal harbor of northern Crete. 
But the sacred cave of the nymph Eileithyia protector of women 
in childbirth was still there, and when Piet and I explored its 
depths with a bundle of burning brushwood, a colony of bats 
squeaked and fluttered in the dark crevices of the roof. The last 
time I had seen the creatures in such numbers was inside the 
Pyramid of Snofru, in Egypt, five years ago. But just so Homer 
had seen them, some twenty-seven hundred years ago, and com- 
pared them to the gibbering shades of the slain suitors whom 
Hermes drove down to the gloomy halls of Hades: 

He roused them up and marshalled them . . . and they obeyed 
his summons, gibbering like bats that squeak and flutter in the depths 



of some mysterious cave when one of them has fallen from the rock 
roof, losing hold of his clustered friends. . . . l 

There are many such sacred caves in the limestone hills of 
Crete and they still bear witness to the crowds of pilgrims who 
came there centuries past. Their rocky floors are littered with 
broken scraps of pottery remains of the votive vessels left by the 
worshippers. Near the sacred stalagmite a dwarf pillar in the 
depths of Eileithyia, round which de Jong pointed out to me 
the remains of a sanctuary wall there were scores of such pot- 
sherds. He picked one up and held it towards the light of the burn- 
ing brushwood. "Roman," he commented and threw it away. 
He searched again in the mud of the cave bottom and produced 
a fragment of a thin-walled goblet such as I have seen at Mycenae. 

"Mycenaean," he said. I put the sherd in my pocket as we 
scrambled out into the sunlight again. 

In such an atmosphere it is easy to slough off the present. 
The plane from which we had landed an hour or so before; the 
Greek soldiers at battle practice near the airport; the jostling, 
noisy, dusty, friendly shops of ramshackle Herakleion, where 
Effie had been greeted like an old friend; all these were forgotten, 
and other memories began to steal in to take their places. The 
story of the unfortunate Dia brought to mind the other myths 
and legends which cling to this lovely island, the largest in the 
Greek archipelago. Crete has been for three thousand years a 
meeting place and a battleground of cultures Minoan, Hellenic, 
Roman, Prankish, Venetian, Turkish and yet, lying far, far to 
the south in the deep, dark sea, almost equidistant from Europe, 
Asia and Africa, it still keeps its atmosphere of remoteness. 

Schliemann, when he dug at Troy and Mycenae, had been 
guided by an unsophisticated belief in the literal truth of the 
Homeric poems. His intention to dig in Crete may have been 
prompted by the same belief, for Homer mentions Crete many 
times, especially in the Odyssey. But Arthur Evans, as we have 
seen, had been drawn to the island first by scientific curiosity 
rather than by belief in legend. He had traced to Crete the 
mysterious hieroglyphic writing neither Egyptian nor Baby- 
lonian and his ambition was to interpret that writing, and to 

1 Odyssey, Book XXIV. 


prove his thesis that "Throughout what is now the civilized 
European area there must have once existed systems of picture- 
writing such as still survive among the more primitive races of 
mankind." At the same time he was thoroughly familiar with 
the stories which Homer and the classic authors had told about 
Crete, and, as these legends have a great bearing on what follows, 
it is worth while to recall some of them. 

The oldest tradition was that of Zeus, the Father God of 
the Greeks, who was said to have been born in a cave in southern 
Crete. Some said this cave was in the central peak of Mount 
Ida, others that it was on a lower but still majestic easterly 
mountain, Lasithi, called Dicte by the old Cretans. 

Rhea, wife of Cronos, bore him several daughters Hestia, 
Demeter, and "gold-shod" Hera but whenever she bore a 
son, the jealous Cronos swallowed the child, with the intent, 
says the poet Hesiod: 

. . . that no other of the proud sons of Heaven should hold kingly 
office amongst the deathless gods. For he learned from Earth and 
starry Heaven that he was destined to be overcome by his own son, 
strong though he was, through the contriving of the great Zeus. 

So, when she came to bear Zeus, Rhea had to devise 

. . . some plan . . , that the birth of her dear child might be con- 
cealed. ... So they sent her to Lyctus, to the rich land of Crete, 
when she was ready to bear great Zeus, the youngest of her children. 

And Hesiod goes on to tell how Earth 

. . . took him in her arms and hid him in a remote cave beneath the 
secret places of holy earth on thick-wooded Mount Aegeum. 

To Cronos Earth gave a stone which, mistaking it for his new- 
born son, the god 

. . . thrust down into his belly; wretch! he did not know that in place 
of the stone his son was left behind, unconquered and untrou- 
bled. . . . 


It was thus, said the Greeks, that Zeus was able to survive, 
to overcome his father and reign as King of Gods. 

Another long-established tradition concerned Minos, King 
of Crete, said to have been "the son of Zeus," or, in another 
version, his friend and chosen companion. Minos, it was said, 
was a mighty lawgiver and founder of the first great naval power 
in the Mediterranean. There were no records or monuments to 
support such a belief, but the spoken tradition was strong, and 
accepted, as we have seen, by historians such as Thucydides. 

The traditions relating to Minos are various, and in some 
ways conflicting. All agree that he controlled a mighty fleet 
which ruled the eastern Mediterranean. In some he was respected 
as a great lawgiver. But there were also traditional memories of 
Minos the Tyrant, embodied in that most imperishable of legends, 
the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. The legend is worth 
quoting, as related by Appollodorus. 

King Minos had, through conquest, become overlord of 
Athens and as tribute demanded each year twelve noble Athenian 
youths and maidens whom he could sacrifice to the Minotaur. This 
was the monstrous progeny of Minos 's wife, Pasiphae, a nympho- 
maniac whom only a bull could satisfy. It was kept by Minos in 
a Labyrinth designed by his chief craftsman, Daedalus, be- 
neath his great Palace at Knossos. So tortuous was this maze, with 
its many twisting passages, blind alleys and false turnings, that 
no man, having once entered, could ever hope to find his way 
out again unaided. And within it lurked the Minotaur, waiting 
to devour its victims. Every year, according the the legend, twelve 
of the flower of Athenian youth, men and maidens, met their 
death in this way. 

Then came the year when the hero Theseus, son of old 
Aegeus, lord of Athens, was numbered among those to be sent to 
Crete but, writes Appollodorus: 

. . some affirm ... he offered himself voluntarily. And as the ship 
had a black sail, Aegeus, (the father) charged his son, if he returned 
alive, to spread white sails on the ship. And when he came to Crete, 
Ariadne, daughter of Minos, having fallen in love with him, offered 
to help him if he would agree to carry her away to Athens and have 
her to wife. Theseus having agreed on oath to do so, she besought 
Daedalus to disclose the way out of the Labyrinth. 


Daedalus the Smith, another great figure of legend, was a com- 
bination of artist, craftsman and engineer whom Minos employed 
as a kind of Master of the King's Works. It was Daedalus who 
had made for Pasiphae the dummy cow within which she hid 
herself when she wish to allure the bull. 

What methods the "brown-haired Ariadne" used to persuade 
the ingenious smith to give her his help are not mentioned, though 
they may be imagined. At any rate, her wiles were successful, 
for, says Appollodorus: 

... at his suggestion she gave Theseus a clue [thread] when he went 
in. Theseus fastened it to the door, and, drawing it after him, entered 
in. And after having found the Minotaur in the last part of the Laby- 
rinth, he killed him by smiting him with his fists; and, drawing the 
clue after him made his way out again. And by night he arrived with 
Ariadne and the children [presumably by this the writer means the 
rest of the twelve Athenian men and girls destined for sacrifice] at 
Naxos. There Dionysus fell in love with Ariadne and carried her off; 
and having brought her to Lemnos he enjoyed her, and begot Thoas, 
Staphylus, Oenopion and Peparthus. 

In his grief on account of Ariadne [continues the poet], Theseus 
forgot to spread the white sails on his ship when he stood for port; and 
Aegeus (his father) seeing from the Acropolis the ship with a black 
sail, supposed that Theseus had perished; so he cast himself down 
and died. . . . 

But that was not the end of the story. King Minos, when he 
learned about the connivance of Daedalus in his daughter's 
escape, imprisoned the guilty engineer, with his son Icarus, in the 
Labyrinth. Then followed the invention of the first flying machine, 
three thousand years before Leonardo da Vinci. , . . 

Daedalus constructed wings for himself and his son, and enjoined 
his son, when he took flight, neither to fly high, lest the glue should 
melt in the sun and the wings should drop off, nor to fly too near the 
sea, lest the pinions should be detached by the damp. But the infatu- 
ated Icarus, disregarding his father's instructions, soared ever higher, 
till, the glue melting, he fell into the sea called after him Icarian, anc? 
perished. . . , 

Daedalus, a practical mechanic, made no such mistake. H< 
had suffered enough already through his indulgence towards th< 


King's dark-haired daughter and her handsome though none- 
too-intelligent Athenian wooer. He flew on, unscathed, to the 
court of King Cocalus, in Sicily. But, says Apollodorus; 

Minos pursued Daedalus, and in every country he searched he 
carried a spiral shell and promised to give a great reward to him who 
should pass a thread through the shell, believing that by that means 
he should discover Daedalus. 

Minos evidently knew human nature. Anyone who has 
encountered the vanity and self-satisfaction of certain modern 
scientist-engineers will recognize the cunning with which the 
King baited his hook. 

Having come to Camicus in Sicily [writes Apollodorus], to the 
court of Cocalus, with whom Daedalus was concealed, he showed the 
spiral shell. Cocalus (Lord of Sicily) took it, and promised to thread 
it, and gave it to Daedalus. 

Such a challenge was irrestible to Daedalus. But he seemed 
to have a contempt for the lay mind akin to that with which the 
modern engineering draughtsman regards the glossy young 
gentleman from the sales department. He knew well that his 
new lord, Cocalus, would have been as incapable of mathema- 
tically working out the curves and convolutions of the shell as 
was Ariadne's handsome but stupid lover in memorizing the 
twists and turns of the Labyrinth. So, just as he had provided 
Theseus with the clue of thread which even he could not mis- 
understand, so he gave to the King of Sicily a method of thread- 
ing the shell which was brilliant in its simplicity. 

Cocalus took it, and promised to thread it ... and Daedalus 
fastened a thread to an ant, and, having bored a hole in the spiral 
shell, allowed the ant to pass through it. But when Minos found the 
thread passed through the shell, he perceived that Daedalus was with 
Cocalus, and at once demanded his surrender. Cocalus promised to 
surrender him. and made an entertainment for Minos. . . . 

And then follows one of the most mysterious records in the 


. . . but after his bath Minos was undone by the daughters of Coca- 
lus. . . . 

But why? and how? 

Both history and legend are silent here. Whatever the means 
of his death, the great King of Crete passes into oblivion, done 
to death by the young daughters of the King of Sicily. . . . And 
a legendary chapter in the prehistory of the eastern Mediterra- 
nean ends, as mysteriously as it began. . . . 

The sun sank behind the headland to our left as we drove 
back along the rough, twisting road, through Herakleion with 
its narrow, ancient streets, and out again past the somber Vene- 
tian ramparts to the winding valley road which leads towards 
Knossos. It was strange to see that name, "half as old as Time/' 
attached to one of the ramshackle Cretan buses which rattled 
past us in a cloud of dust. 

The houses were left behind. The valley's sides grew steeper, 
and a small stream accompanied us on our left, crossed by many 
old, arched bridges. For several miles the road rose and fell, 
until, on one of its downward slopes, Mrs. de Jong pointed to a 
cluster of houses at the bottom of the hill. 

"That," she said, "is our village and these," pointing to 
trim ranks of vines which climbed the slopes, "are our vine- 

"My wife means," interjected her husband, "that these are 
the vineyards belonging to the School. The land surrounding the 
Palace was given by Sir Arthur to the British School of Archae- 
ology at Athens, and we look after it." 

The car stopped in front of a pleasant limewashed cottage 
behind a stone wall. 

"But where is the Palace?" I asked. 

"Away to the left, behind those trees," said Piet "You'll see 
it in the morning." 

"Youll be wanting a bath, I expect," said his wife. "Here' 
Manoli" greeting a dark-faced, smiling Cretan servant with ; 
flood of Creek. "Hell show you to the Villa, Your room's all read 
for you/ 

2, Heinrich Schliernann. 

John Murray 

3. Sophia Schliemann, 

wearing the 

"Jewels of Helen." 

6. "Armed Combat in 
Mountain Glen": Gold 
signet from fourth shaft 
grave, Mycenae. Note 
"Homeric" body shield. 


7. Design on sardonyx 
gem from Mycenae, show- 
ing warrior with "figure- 
eight" shield. 


8. Minoan "figure-eight" 
body shields. 

Mycenae: Postern Gate. 

10. Mycenae: Entrance to the 
secret underground cistern. 

Ashmolean Museum 

2. Gold face mask from shaft graves, Mycenae (thought by 
Schliemann to be that of Agamemnon ) . 

Ashmolean M 

14. Mycenae ; The Citadel crowns the hill in the middle foreground. 


15. Scene apparently illustrating the murder of Aegisthos and Clytemnestra by 
Orestes, on gold bead seal of elongated class: Thisbe. 

16. Tiryns: Cyclopean masonry. 

17. The "Cup of Nestor." 

Ashmolcan Mus 

L8. Portrait of Sir Arthur Evans, with the Palace of Knossos in background. Tru 

19. Restored West Portico, Palace of Knossos with "Cup-bearer" frescoes. 

20. Palace of Knossos: the 
"horns of consecration" which 
originally surmounted the 
south side of the Palace. Be- 
tween the horns can be seen 
the little "caravanserai" and, 
in the distance, Mount Jukta. 
Travellers from the south 
(from Egypt) came this way. 


21. Palace of Knossos: "The Room of the Throne" with restored frescoes. This is 
the oldest throne in Europe, still in its original place. 

22. Palace of Knossos: One of the great storerooms, with oil jars in their original 
position, and "floor cvsts" for precious articles. 


23. Palace of Knossos: The "Cup-bearer" fresco, the first 
example of a Minoan to he found in Crete. Note his "iden- 


24. A Minoan vase. 

25. Knossos: 

The North 


26. Knossos: A typical light well." Note tapered columns, 

I ft 


27. Examples of Keftiu (sea peoples, probably Cretans) on walls of Egyptian tombs. 
Compare with "Cup-bearer" fresco (especially loincloths) . 













29. Palace of Knossos: The Grand Staircase leading to the Royal Apartments five 
flights below. 


30, The "Ladies in Blue" fresco (Minoan Court ladies), restored by Gilli6ron. 



w D 

U fil 



oJ C s 

o. ^ 

32. Palace of Knossos: Minoan Court 
ladies at a public function. 

32a. The Snake Goddess of Crete. 

Athmolean Museum 


33, A Mirioan amphora showing octopus and marine growths on rocks. 

Ashmolean Museum 

34. "Vapheio" cup : Scene showing the hunting of wild bulls. 

olden "Vapheio" cup showing bull and decov cow. 

Ashmolean Museum 

SIWI^WfffrffAWf^^ 1 1 Iff ffn 


36. The Minoan "bull-leaping" sport. A fresco from the Palace of Knossos showing 
the acrobat somersaulting over the bull's back. The "matador" on the right is a girl. 



Hn/ QomKaf-s nprfnrmed the feat ^see above) . 


38. Fresco of the Young Prince (sometimes called the "Priest King"), Palace of 

Aahmolean Mf* 

39. Sir Arthur Evans in later life, standing at the northern entrance to the Palace, 
which he excavated. 

40. Knossos: The Hall of the Double Axes. 

41. Steatite rhv ton with boxers. 


42. The "boy god." 

43. Palace of Phaestos: The "Theatral Area." 

44. Palace of Phaestos: The Grand Entrance Staircase, 

45. Palace of Phaestos: Audience Chamber. 


47. The Palace of Phaestos, with Mount Ida in background. 

48, The Palace of Phaestos, with the Plain of Messara behind. 

49, The author at Herakleion. 

"Villa?" I asked. "Is that a hotel?" 

"No, no, no," replied Mrs. de Jong. "The Villa Ariadne is 
Sir Arthur's old home. He built it in 1912 as a permanent base 
for his work, and to entertain his friends. He used to spend every 
spring and summer at the Villa for many years. Then, when he 
got too old to come out regularly, he handed over the house to 
the School, as a rest house for students. This" indicating the 
creepered, comfortable cottage "is our house we call it the 
Taverna. But you'll be staying at the Villa up there. Do you 
see it?" 

She indicated a stately fagade behind a screen of palms and 
oleander trees. A little path wound up the slope between clusters 
of bougainvillaea. Although I had left England locked in the 
grip of February frost, here it was already comfortably mild, 
and I sensed the coming of spring. 

"Is anyone else staying there?" 

"No," said Mrs. de Jong. "February is too early for students. 
You'll have the whole place to yourself. But don't worry there 
are no ghosts, or only friendly ones! Look, Piet, what a wonder- 
ful moon." She chattered on without pausing for breath, finally 
calling out to me, "Dinner's at eight!" as I followed Manoli, 
through the scented dusk, to the Villa Ariadne. 



CRETE is a long, narrow island, much wider from east to west 
(160 miles) than from north to south (35 miles at its broadest 
point ) . The country is ribbed by bare, almost treeless mountains 
of great magnificence the highest is 7,882 feet which run ap- 
proximately east and west, in line with the island's longest dimen- 
sion. But here and there deep gaps break the mountain chain 
from north to south. They begin as shallow troughs near the 
coast, and become progressively steeper as they cut into the 
mountains. In one of these valleys, at a point near the north 
coast a few miles from Herakleion (formerly called Candia) lies 

When Evans began to dig there in the first year of our cen- 
tury, he saw before him: 

(a) a valley, fairly shallow, and running roughly north and south, 
with the town of Herakleion behind him to the north; 

(b) a modern road following the western, i.e., the right-hand side 
of the valley (looking south); 

(c) to the east, left of the road, a large, fairly level-topped mound 
called Kephala, falling away steeply on the eastern, i.e., the 
left-hand side, into a deep gully at the foot of which ran the 
river Kairatos; 

(d) ahead, to the south, another steep-sided gully, cutting off the 
mound of Kephala from the valley road to the south, which 
crossed the gully by a bridge. 

Thus one must think of the site of Knossos as roughly a 
quadrangular mound, bounded on two sides the east and south 
by steep downward slopes, the remaining sides being more or 
less on a level with the surrounding terrain. It must not be imag- 
ined as a lofty citadel crowning a steep hill, as at Mycenae. (To 
all who find topographical description as boring as I do, may I 



plead that if they grasp the orientation of the site steep-sided 
to the south and east, flatter to the west and north they will 
find the following chapter more comprehensible and, I hope, 
enjoyable. ) 

Virchow, writing of Schliemann's discoveries at Troy thirty 
years earlier, had stated: "Here begins a new science." Now 
Evans, who at forty-nine was almost the same age as Schliemann 
when he dug at Troy, was to make another tremendous con- 
tribution to that science. Yet when he, his Scots assistant and 
their original thirty workmen sank the first shaft into the mound, 
they had only a vague idea of what it might hold. They knew 
that substantial walls existed at one point the Cretan amateur, 
Minos Kalokairinos, had struck them years before. There were 
also, they knew, some huge jars of baked clay, called pithoi 
rather like those in which Ali Baba found the Forty Thieves. 
Apart from these facts there were only myths and legends from 
the dim beginnings of European history. 

Yet, almost from the start of the excavations, the great 
mound began to reveal its secrets not material treasures of 
gold and precious stones, such as Schliemann had found at 
Mycenae but evidences of a mature, sophisticated art; a skill 
in engineering; and an architecture of such splendor, subtlety 
and refinement as could have been produced only by a civiliza- 
tion of great age. The style was, in the main, that which had 
hitherto been called "Mycenaean," because at Mycenae had been 
found the first objects with the characteristics neither Egyptian 
nor Oriental which had so fascinated Evans when Schliemann 
showed him his treasures. And yet there were differences. There 
was a suavity of style, an assurance, even a hint of decadence in 
Cretan art. Above all there was an impression of tremendous 
age, and of long-continued, uninterrupted development which 
just did not fit with the stern citadel of Mycenae that baron's 
stronghold frowning from its hilltop. 

And yet here at Knossos were the familiar "Mycenaean" 
features the bell-like crinoline skirts of the women depicted on 
seals and frescoes, even the now famous eight-shaped shield 
which Schliemann had triumphantly declared to be Homeric. 
But Homer (between 900-700 B.C.) now appeared almost mod- 
ern compared with these people! The treasures of the shaft 


graves of Mycenae dated from about 1600 B.C. Yet it now became 
increasingly clear that those kings and queens with their golden 
breastplates and rich jewellery, must have come long after the 
builders of the first Palace of Knossos. . . . Evans and his com- 
panions patiently followed Ariadne's thread, but each discovery 
seemed to bring with it new, unsolved mysteries. The Labyrinth 
seemed to have no end. . . . 

It gradually became clear that the mound of Kephala con- 
cealed a great Palace, some six acres in extent or rather the re- 
mains of several Palaces, not neatly stratified one beneath an- 
other but to some extent jumbled together, as later builders had 
utilized some of the structures of their forefathers, while com- 
pletely gutting and rebuilding others. But everything testified 
to long and comparatively uninterrupted habitation. Human be- 
ings had lived continuously on that spot, and on the surround- 
ing hillsides, for more than a score of centuries. Meanwhile Ar- 
thur Evans, perhaps at first a little bewildered by the magnitude 
of his discovery, continued to search for his hieroglyphics, and 
found them. 

We have found [he announced in a letter written at the time], a 
kind of baked clay bar, rather like a stone chisel in shape, though 
broken at one end, with script on it and what appear to be numerals. 
It at once recalled a clay tablet of unknown age that I had copied at 
Candia, also found at Knossos . . . also broken. There is something 
like cursive writing about these. . . . 

Evans had found what he had come to find. More men were 
engaged, until over one hundred were digging into the mound 
under the careful direction of Evans, Duncan Mackenzie and a 
new arrival, Theodore Fyfe, architect of the British School of 
Archaeology at Athens. Evans was one of the first archaeologists 
to employ a professional architect, always on the site; others usu- 
ally contented themselves with bringing one in at the end to 
make plans. But Evans kept a series of first-class architects in 
constant attendance; first Theodore Fyfe, then Christian Doll 
and finally Piet de Jong. 

Although the architectural revelations of Knossos astonished 
Evans, his main interest, at first, was in the prehistoric picture 


writing which he had come to find. As more of these precious 
clay tablets came to sight, bearing the same mysterious hiero- 
glyphic writing which he had recognized on the tiny seal stones, 
he wrote delightedly to his family: 

The great discovery is whole deposits, entire or fragmentary, of 
clay tablets analogous to the Babylonian but with inscriptions in the 
prehistoric script of Crete. I must have about seven hundred pieces by 
now. It is extremely satisfactory, as it is what I came to Crete [somel 
years ago to find, and it is the coping-stone to what I have already put 

With regard to prehistoric inscriptions, "the cry is still they come." 
I have just struck the largest deposit yet, some hundreds of 
pieces. . . . 

And the Athens correspondent of The Times wrote on August 
10, 1900: 

. . . the most important discovery is the prehistoric Cretan script, 
which proves that writing was practised. . . . 

This was also Evans's view at first. But, gradually, as the full 
glory of the Palace was unveiled, he began to realize that whether 
or not he succeeded in deciphering the mysterious script, there 
had come to him an opportunity which had never before been 
granted to one man, the opportunity of writing, almost single- 
handed, the history of the first two thousand years of European 
civilization. He accepted the challenge, and was equal to it. 

On April fifth came a remarkable discovery the finding of 
the first picture of a "Minoan," one of the mysterious people 
who had inhabited the Palace of Knossos more than fifteen hun- 
dred years before Christ. ( It was Evans who invented the name 
Minoan, after Minos, the legendary ruler of Crete.) This was a 
great day for the discoverer, and his diary reveals his excitement. 

. . . Early in the morning the gradual surface uncovering of the 
Corridor to the left of the "Megaron" near its south end revealed two 


large pieces of Mycenaean fresco. . . . One represented the head and 
forehead, the other the waist and part of the figure of a female [later 
recognized to be a male] figure holding in her [his] hand a long 
Mycenaean "rhyton" or high, funnel-shaped cup. . . . The figure is 
life size, the flesh colour of a deep reddish hue like that of figures on 
Etruscan tombs and the Keftiu of Egyptian paintings. The profile of 
the face is a noble type; full lips, the lower showing a slight peculiar- 
ity of curve below. The eye is dark and slightly almond shaped. . . . 
The arms are beautifully modelled. The waist is of the smallest . . . 
it is far and away the most remarkable human figure of the Mycenaean 
age that has yet come to light. . . . 

How Schliemann would have loved to have seen that fresco! 

The discovery of this figure, the first example of a well- 
preserved painting of a man of that far-remote age, contemporary 
with the Middle Empire of Egypt caused a great sensation in 
Crete and beyond. The world's press printed news of its finding, 
and the local inhabitants of Knossos were equally impressed, 
though they were convinced that the figure was that of a Chris- 
stian saint. At night a guard was set. 

At night [wrote Evans in his diary], Manoli set to watch the 
fresco, believed by him to be Saint with halo. Has troubled dreams. 
Saint wrathful. Manoli wakes and hears lowing and neighing. Some- 
thing about, but of ghostly kind. . . . 

The figure seemed to have formed part of a mural repre- 
senting a procession of young men, each carrying a tall, conical 
"rhyton" in some ceremonial observance. The figure, with its 
broad, bronzed shoulders, curling black hair, artificially slim 
waist encircled by a tight girdle, and muscular thighs, was 
clearly stylized; yet here, clearly, was the first representation of 
a young Cretan of the prehistoric age which human eyes had 
seen for at least two thousand years. Egyptologists were particu- 
larly excited, for here, in his own locale, was clearly represented 
one of the so-called Keftiu, the "people of the islands," who can 
be seen on the walls of Ancient Egyptian tombs bearing tribute 
to the Pharaoh or his officers. Those familiar with Egyptian in- 
scriptions had known for many years of the "Island People" 
from the "Great Green Sea," with whom the Pharaohs were alter- 
nately at war and at peace. Their pictures had been seen in 


Egyptian tombs, recognizable by their blue and gold loincloths 
of non-Egyptian shape, and by the handsome vessels they carried 
vessels of a recognizably non-Egyptian type. Now, for the first 
time, these Keftiu were revealed in their own land and, sure 
enough, among the pottery which Evans and his assistants dug 
up from the depths of Kephala were fragments of vases, "rhytons" 
and other ritual vessels such as could be seen clearly depicted 
in the tomb paintings of Egyptian Thebes (see Plate 27). 

Were these, then, the mysterious Keftiu? . . . Were they 

Then came the dramatic discovery of the so-called "Room 
of the Throne." Evans had begun excavating on the west side 
of the mound. First he had discovered, on what was evidently 
the ground floor of the Palace, a long corridor off which led a 
series of magazines or storerooms, each containing great earthen- 
ware storage jars for oil (the pithoi), and under the floor be- 
neath, narrow, stone-lined cysts small chambers, like modern 
safe deposits, which, from the fact that fragments of gold foil 
were found among them, seem to have been used for the storage 
of precious objects ( see Plate 22 ) , All the lower part of this west 
side of the great, rambling building seems to have been used, at 
any rate during the later period of the Palace's history, for official 
quarters; one imagines a kind of Cretan Whitehall, full of clerks 
and civil servants of varying degrees of importance. Here was 
kept the royal wealth (of which oil formed an important part), 
and here lived those responsible for its collection and safe- 

Then there lay, to the east of the corridor and magazines, a 
large central courtyard, on top of the mound. Buildings of vary- 
ing sizes surrounded it, but it was much longer on its east and 
west sides than on the north and south. On the west side of this 
courtyard was what seemed at first to be the eastern entrance to 
the palace (though it was not). And here, quite early in the ex- 
cavations, Evans and his friends found the Room of the Throne. 

First there was an antechamber opening on to the central 
court. Beyond that was a further chamber, with seats on three 
sides, overlooking a rectangular pit, with broad steps leading 
down into it. At first it looked very much like a bath, until it 
was discovered that there was no provision for the escape of 
waste water. But it was the room above and overlooking the so- 


called "bath" which most interested Evans and his colleagues, 
Duncan Mackenzie and Theodore Fyfe. Here is Sir Arthur's diary 
entry for April 13, 1900. 

The chief event of the day was the result of the continued excava- 
tion of the bath chamber [my italics]. The parapet of the bath proved 
to have another circular cutting at its east end, and as this was filled 
with charred wood cypress these openings were evidently for 
columns. On the other side of the north wall was a short bench like 
that of the outer chamber, and then separated from it by a small in- 
terval a separate seat of honour or Throne. It had a high back, like 
the seat, of gypsum, which was partly embedded in the stucco of the 
wall. It was raised on a square base and had a curious moulding be- 
low with crockets (almost Gothic). 

This room, which, in his report to The Times, Evans named 
"The Council Chamber of Minos," was recognized later to have 
had a religious purpose. But there, in its original position, stood 
and still stands the noble throne of Minos, the oldest in Eu- 
rope by two thousand years (see Plate 21). 

The more Evans and his staff explored the site, the more 
extensive and complicated it became. "Discovery followed dis- 
covery," wrote Joan Evans. "An Egyptian statue of diorite, a 
great paved area with stairways, a fresco of olive sprays in flower, 
another of a boy [later discovered to be a monkey] gathering 
saffron, a fresco of people in solemn procession, a great relief in 
painted stucco of a charging bull . . ." 

It was this latter discovery which gave Evans the greatest 
excitement. Already he had seen, among die objects which Schlie- 
mann had found in the Mycenaean shaft graves, a fine silver head 
of a bull, with a rosette between its horns (see Plate 11). Now, 
at Knossos, here was the animal again, in a magnificent stucco 
relief, which evidently had once adorned the north portico of 
the Palace. Not only there, but in other places, in frescoes and 
reliefs, and frequently on seals, appeared the bull. Inevitably, 
the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur returned to Evan's mind. 
"What a part these creatures play here!" he wrote. . . . "Was 
not some one or other of these creatures visible on the ruined 
site in Dorian days, which gave the actual tradition of the Bull 
of Minos?" 

Later came the most remarkable of all the discoveries made 


at Knossos: the remains of a spirited fresco depicting, without a 
shadow of doubt, a young man in the act of somersaulting over 
the back of a charging bull, while a young girl, similarly dressed 
in "toreador's" costume, waited behind the animal's flank to catch 
him (see Plate 36). Soon other examples of the same scene came 
to light, proving that among these ancient people there had un- 
doubtedly existed a form of sport in which the bull played a 
prominent part. In none of these scenes was any contestant 
shown carrying a weapon, nor was the bull killed. But again and 
again in wall paintings, on seals, in a delicate ivory statuette 
the same incredible scene was repeated, the slim, agile figure of 
the youthful "bull leaper" in the act of somersaulting over the 
horns of the charging beast. Had there been, after all, some 
kind of ritual sacrifice? Were these young men and girls the 
Athenian hostages who, according to tradition, were sent each 
year as tribute to the Minotaur? 

Who were these people? Were they "Mycenaean" contem- 
porary with the people whose bodies Schliemann had found in 
the shaft graves at Mycenae? Or were they even older? Although 
the civilization revealed at Knossos was akin to that of Mycenae, 
everything indicated that it was far more ancient, and that what 
had been regarded hitherto as "Mycenaean" was in fact derived 
from Crete (although the Mycenaeans were not necessarily of 
Cretan stock). In an attempt to establish just how long civiliza- 
tion had existed at Knossos, Evans sank test pits deep into the 
mound of Kephala. The strata thus revealed proved beyond 
doubt that there had been almost continuous human settlement 
at Knossos from the Neolithic period (i.e., the New Stone Age, 
which ended at about 3000 B.C. ) up to and including the penul- 
timate development of Cretan civilization the period to which 
Evans later gave the name Late Minoan III which ended in 
approximately 1200 B.C. There were evidences of one or two 
breaks, but none of long duration. Civilization had been a long 
process of growth, a blossoming and a decay. Then Evans under- 
stood why this had been possible. In that remote age when sea 
power did not exist, Crete, isolated in a waste of waters, had 
been safe from invasion. The nearest power, Egypt, had no great 
naval strength. Contact between Egypt and Crete had been cul- 
tural and commercial. 

Gradually Crete had built up naval power. Everywhere 


Evans and his associates found evidence of the close ties be- 
tween the lords of Knossos and the surrounding ocean. On walls 
and pillars, on painted frescoes and engraved seals, appeared 
the trident emblem of sea power. The makers of the lovely 
Cretan pottery, especially in its middle and late stages of devel- 
opment, repeatedly used marine emblems and, as decorative 
motifs, sea creatures such as the octopus, the dolphin, the sea 
urchin, and the starfish (see Plate 33). The Palace of Knossos 
itself, unlike the grim fortresses of Mycenae and Tiryns, was al- 
most unfortified. It did not need walls the ocean was sufficient 
protection. Again it seemed that the ancient tradition was true 
of King Minos as founder of the first great naval power in the 
Mediterranean. Was Crete, then, the starting point of Aegean 
civilization? Was this the answer to the riddle which old Ilein- 
rich Schliemann had sought to understand? 

Arthur Evans believed that it was, and determined to prove 
it. Already, in one of those bold imaginative flights which dis- 
tinguished him from the mere scholarly pedant, he had written 
to The Times in August of that year: 

. . . the realms of the legendary Minos, the great conqueror and 
lawgiver who at the close of his temporal reign took his seat on the 
dread tribunal of the netherworld, the abode of Daedalus, the father 
of architecture and plastic arts, the haunt of the mysterious Dactyls, 
the earliest artificers in iron and bronze, the refuge of Europa, and 
the birthplace of Zeus himself, Crete was in remote times the home of 
a highly developed culture which vanished before the dawn of his- 
tory . . . among the prehistoric cities of Crete, Knossos, the capital 
of Minos, is indicated by legend as holding the foremost place. Here 
the great lawgiver (Minos) promulgated his famous institutions, 
which like those of Moses and Numa Pompilius were derived from a 
divine source; here was established a ... maritime empire, sup- 
pressing piracy, conquering the islands of the Archipelago, and im- 
posing a tribute on subjected Athens. Here Daedalus constructed the 
Labyrinth, the den of the Minotaur, and fashioned the wings-^-per- 
haps the sails with which he and Icarus took flight over the Ae- 
gean. . . . 

It was fortunate for the world that this great opportunity 
of digging down to the very roots of European culture came 


to a man who combined a scholar's patience with devotion to 
truth, intuition, sensibility and poetic imagination. Partly by 
chance, but chiefly through good judgment, Evans had found in 
middle life a task for which he was supremely fitted. But he 
knew well he must tackle it in his own way, unhampered by 
committees and official bodies, and responsible to no one but 
himself. At first the excavations had been partly financed by the 
"Cretan Exploration Fund," but the expense of excavating such 
a site was very great, and now that the South African War had 
broken out, there was little money to spare for archaeology. 
There was a suggestion of making a fresh appeal for funds under 
the direction of George Macmillan, of the famous publishing 
house, whose family was hereditary friends of the Evans family. 
But Arthur Evans made his own views quite clear when he wrote 
to his father in November, 1900. 

The Palace of Knossos [he wrote], was my idea and my work, and 
it turns out to be such a find as one could not hope for in a lifetime, 
or in many lifetimes. That the Fund should help me is another thing. 
If you like to give me the money personally that also would be quite 
acceptable. But we may as well keep some of Knossos in the family! 
I am quite resolved not to have the thing entirely "pooled" for many 
reasons, but largely because I must have sole control of what I am 
personally undertaking. With other people it may be different, but I 
know it is so with me; my way may not be the best but it is the only 
way I can work. . * . 

John Evans knew his son s temper and agreed. Fortunately 
he was a rich man. From this point onwards the cost of the 
monumental work of excavation, reconstruction and publication 
of the Palace of Knossos, work which continued intermittently for 
more than thirty years, was borne first by John Evans and after- 
wards entirely by Arthur Evans himself, from his private fortune. 
It is difficult to arrive at an accurate estimate of the total cost, 
but it was probably in the region of a quarter of a million pounds. 

But it was not only Evans who was making great discoveries 
in Crete in the spring of 1900. While Evans dug at Knossos, an- 
other British archaeologist, working on the other side of the 
island, succeeded in penetrating into one of the most awe- 
inspiring sanctuaries in the world; the birth cave of Zeus. 



But Rhea was subject in love to Cronos and bore splen- 
did children, Hestia, Demeter, and gold-shod Hera and 
strong Hades, pitiless in heart, who dwells under the earth, 
and the loud-crashing Earth-Shaker, and wise Zeus, father 
of gods and men, by whose thunder the wide earth is shaken. 
These great Cronos swallowed as each came forth from the 
womb of his mother's knees with this intent, that no other of 
the proud sons of Heaven should hold kingly office amongst 
the deathless gods. . . . 

So the poet Hesiod had written, some seven hundred years or 
more before Christ, setting down in stirring verse the traditions 
which he had inherited from a far earlier age. 

Some years before Arthur Evans finally obtained the con- 
cession to dig at Knossos, he had explored the mountain of 
Lasithi, called by the ancients Dicte, where, it was said, Zeus 
was born. Now, in the spring of 1900, although Evans was ab- 
sorbed in his newfound Palace of Knossos, he had not forgotten 
the great cavern in the mountainside, far up on the heights of 
Lasithi. There, in 1896, he had discovered an inscribed libation 
table, although fallen rocks had prevented him from penetrating 
deeply into the cave. But now there arrived on the scene the re- 
doubtable D. G. Hogarth, then Director of the British School of 
Archaeology in Athens, and well seasoned (as Evans was not) 
in excavation in the Middle East. In May, 1900, while Evans and 
Mackenzie worked on the mound of Kephala, Hogarth made a 
determined attack on the Dictean Cave, or, as it is sometimes 
called, "the cave-sanctuary of Psychro." He had every advantage 
on his side, for at last peace had come to the island; and the local 
inhabitants, who had previously been suspicious of foreigners, 



were now favorably disposed to the British, who had helped to 
deliver them from the Turks. 

Hogarth, like Evans, was a man of imagination and sensibil- 
ity. When he began to explore the birthplace of Zeus, he was 
zestfully aware of its mythological associations. In his article in 
the Monthly Review January to March, 1901 he wrote: 

Thither the pregnant Queen [Rhea] was sent by the kindly Earth 
Mother at the first, and thence she set forth by night to lay her new- 
born babe on the neighbouring hill. That babe grew to be the Immor- 
tal One [Zeus] before whom old Time himself was forced to bow, and 
in later days still resorted to his birth cave. For thither, as Lucian tells 
us in his best manner, he led the maiden Europa, flushed and half- 
suspecting, and there the son [Minos] whom she conceived that day, 
sought his Father, when, another Moses, he would give a Law to the 
Cretans. While the Cretans waited above, so runs the story, Minos 
descended into the grot, and, reappearing at last with the Code, gave 
out that he had got it from the hands of Zeus himself. . . . 

This was the sacred cave, never fully explored, which 
Hogarth and his assistants were now to examine. He knew how 
privileged he was, for, as he wrote: 

... the upland fastnesses of Crete have not, these many centuries 
past, been any place for the scholarly explorer; and the Lasithi region, 
which excluded the Venetians and only once admitted the Turks in 
arms, has remained less known than any part of the classic world. 
Indeed, jealous and nervous officials on the coast, jealous and arrogant 
hillmen in the inner country, have kept most of Crete virgin soil to 
our own day. 

He had had predecessors, of course. Frederico Halbherr, 
the great Italian archaeologist and friend of Evans, and Dr. Jo- 
seph Hazzidakis, the head of the Candiote Syllogos (Cretan Ar- 
chaeological Society), had made tentative attempts to penetrate 
the cave. They had recovered, from the local peasants, certain 
bronze objects, such as miniature "double axes" (the symbol of 
Zeus), knives and other weapons; but inside the cave they could 
do little or nothing, so deep was the cumber of fallen rocks in its 
upper hall. 


Then at last came the liberation of the island, and, as Ho- 
garth writes, ". . . in May, 1900 ... I left Mr, Arthur Evans 
to his fortunate labours in the Knossian Palace of Minos, and 
betook myself to Psychro with a few trained men, stone-hammers, 
mining bars, blasting powder, and the rest of a digger's plant" 

Then he describes the cave: 

There is a shallow hall to the right and an abysmal chasm to the 
left, the last not matched in Crete for grandeur, nor unworthy of a 
place among the famous limestone grottoes of the world. The rock at 
first breaks down sheer, but as the light grows dim, takes an outward 
slope, and so falls steeply still for two hundred feet into an inky dark- 
ness. Having groped thus far, stand and burn a powerful flashlight. 
An icy pool spreads from your feet about the bases of fantastic stalac- 
tite columns on into the heart of the hill. Hall opens from hall with 
fretted roofs and the same black, unruffled floor, doubling the torches 
you and your guides must bear. An impassable labyrinth before, where 
rock and water meet; behind and far above a spot of faintly luminous 
haze. Fit scene for Minos' mysterious colloquy with his father Zeus, 
and the after-cult of a Chthonian god. . . . 

To me, one of the most engaging qualities of the great 
nineteenth-century archaeologists such as Hogarth is their vigor- 
ous literary style. Hogarth, Petrie, Evans, Breasted; they could 
all write. But they were also men of action and decision, as Ho- 
garth makes clear in his next paragraph. 

Our blasting charges made short work of the boulders in the up- 
per hill, and luckily the threatening roof held good. Crowbars and 
stone-hammers finished the powder's work. . . . Then the real dig 
began. . . . 

He is very amusing on labor recruitment. He believed in 
mixing the sexes because, he states, ". . . the men labour the 
more willingly for the emulation of the women. . . .* but this 
method, applied successfully in Cyprus and Turkey, seemed at 
first to be a failure in Crete. 

At first the Lasithi maidens were very coy, watching from a dis- 
tance two girls, already trained at Knossos, diligent at their sieves. 
But, on the third morning, a more cosmopolitan villager, who had 


fought or looted as a volunteer on the French side in 1870, sent 
up an aged wife and daughter to help his son, and the ice was broken. 
The laughing mob brandished grain-sieves and demanded all to be 
written [recruited] at once, and with their sisters, cousins, and aunts, 
who brought up the mid-day meal, they made the terrace before the 
Cave the gayest spot in Lasithi. . . . 

With this picturesque labor force Hogarth made one of the 
most sensational discoveries in Crete. There were, as he de- 
scribed, two chambers within the sacred grotto. In the Upper 
Hall, part of which had already been plundered by the local 
peasantry, there were found small objects of bronze, such as 
small "double axes," knives, bracelets and so forth, and remains 
of Hellenic pottery, all originally proffered as votive offerings to 
the god. But these were fairly late in date; i.e., they belonged 
to "classical" Greek or Roman times, from about 500 B.C. onward. 
But then came the exploration of that "abysmal chasm to the 
left," which had been inaccessible until Hogarth arrived with his 
blasting powder and mining bars. 

The men clambered down [he writes], unwilling and not ex- 
pectant, to their final task in the dank abyss . . . and the girls 
moaned not a little at the sight of the clammy mud in which they 
must now stand and search. , . . 

The reluctant diggers worked lower and lower into the dark- 
ness, till their distant lights showed like glow-worms to the men 
above, and began to grope in the mud left exposed by the water. 
And then something wonderful happened. 

A zealous groper, wishing to put both hands to his work, stuck his 
guttering candle into a slit of stalactite column, and therein espied the 
edge of a bronze blade, wedged vertically. Fished out with the fire- 
tongs from the camp above, this proved a perfect "Mycenaean" knife. 
But, except by human agency, it could hardly have come into the 
crevice. . . . 

Quickly the word was passed round, and the workers, men 
and girls, ceased groping in the mud of the pool and began to 
search in the crevices of the stalactites those pendulous columns 


of glistening limestone which hung from the roof of the cave, 
the products of aeons of natural growth. And there they found, 
wedged in the crevices, hundreds upon hundreds of votive offer- 
ings: knives, miniature double axes, women's ornaments, fibulae 
all offerings to the god, placed there by worshippers who had 
penetrated to that gloomy hall two, three, perhaps four thousand 
years ago. It was the Holy of Holies. It was the innermost sanc- 
tuary of Zeus himself, unseen by man for, perhaps, two mil- 
lennia. . . . 

In this most awful part of the sacred grotto [wrote Hogarth], it 
was held most profitable to dedicate, in niches made by Nature her- 
self, objects fashioned expressly for the God's service, like the axes or 
statuettes, or taken from the person of the worshipper, as the knives, 
pins, and rings. The fact does honour to the primitive Cretan imagina- 
tion. In these pillared halls of unknown extent and abysmal gloom 
undoubtedly was laid the scene of Minos' legendary converse with 
Zeus. For the lower grot suits admirably the story as the rationalizing 
Dionysius tells it the primeval king leaving his people without and 
descending out of their sight, to reappear at last with the credit of 
having seen and talked with God himself. That here is the original 
Birth Cave of Zeus there can remain n^ shadow of doubt. The Cave of 
Ida, however rich it proved in offerings when explored some years 
ago, has no sanctuary approaching the mystery of this. Among holy 
caverns in the world, that of Psychro, in virtue of its lower halls, must 
stand alone. . . . 



HOGARTH had proved that yet another of the ancient traditions 
had a solid basis. Meanwhile, Evans and Mackenzie continued 
to dig at Knossos until, on June 2, 1900, they had to cease. The 
weather had become unbearably hot, and besides, the valley had 
proved malarial. However, by February, 1901, Evans was back 
in Herakleion (then called Candia), where he rented a Turkish 
house as a permanent base. Every day, writes Joan Evans: 

Evans, Mackenzie and Fyfe used to ride out to Knossos on mules, 
through a tunnel-like gate over the town moat, past the lepers congre- 
gated to beg outside, . . . Arthur Evans loved to go fast, even on a 
mule, and was always envious of Halbherr's fine horse, until he finally 
acquired a fast Turkish cob of his own. 

By this time Evans had begun to realize the magnitude of 
the task ahead of him. Here was the work of a lifetime, some- 
thing which could not be hurried or scamped. He was also con- 
scious of the world publicity which had been focussed upon him 
since his first report in The Times. Old John Evans, an antiquar- 
ian himself, was almost overjoyed at his son's achievement; and 
in that year, 1901, managed to get out to Crete himself, although 
he was then seventy-seven years of age. Together father and son 
made a strenuous and adventurous journey across the island to 
Gortyna, where Frederico Halbherr, the Italian archaeologist 
who had always been a staunch friend of Arthur Evans, warmly 
welcomed them. Halbherr was beginning to excavate another 
Minoan palace at Phaestos, in the south, second only to Knossos 
in size and beauty, and even superior to it in the splendor of its 



site. Further to the east, at Gournia, two American scholars, Miss 
Boyd and Mr. R. B. Seager, were excavating a Minoan town. 
Later, Halbherr unearthed the beautiful "Royal Villa" of Hagia 
Triadha, and French scholarship was to make its contribution by 
excavating the small but very rich "Palace" at Mallia. 

But Arthur Evans's greatest discoveries in 1901 took place 
after his father had returned to England in April. He began to 
find tiny clay seals which his phenomenal eyesight enabled him 
to interpret. "Out of five different impressions, but overlapping 
one another in design, I have been able to reconstruct a wonder- 
ful religious scene; a goddess on a sacred rock or peak with two 
lions in heraldic attitudes on either side of it, her temple behind, 
and a votary in front. . . ." Even the layman can appreciate the 
fascination of this discovery, for the two lions on this tiny seal 
are identifiable with those flanking the Lion Gate at Mycenae; 
and the Goddess, .with her typical Minoan flounced skirt and bare 
breasts, stands above them. It is not impossible that originally 
such a figure surmounted the central pillar between the My- 
cenaean lions. Later, as we shall see, Evans was able to make a 
profoundly imaginative interpretation of Minoan religion and its 
Mother Goddess, who may well have been Rhea, the mother of 

It was also in the early part of this second season that he 
discovered the beautiful inlaid gaming table, set with crystal 
and ivory mosaic, and gold settings, which may once have whiled 
away the leisure hours of King Minos himself. "It gives," wrote 
Evans, "an extraordinary idea of magnificence. . . ." 

Architecturally the Palace continued to reveal fresh marvels. 
Evans now began to excavate the east side of the central court- 
yard, where the ground fell away steeply towards the river 
Kairatos. And here he revealed the Grand Staircase, the most 
impressive architectural achievement of that four-thousand-year- 
old civilization which has come down to us (see Plate 29). More 
important still, he not only revealed it, but, by the most skillful 
and imaginative restoration, saved it from inevitable destruction. 

It is evident [he wrote], that we are only just coming to the real 
centre of the Palace buildings. We have now a hall with two column- 
bases approached by a quadruple flight of stairs. Two of these, under 


the others, have had to be tunnelled out. A gallery with a wooden 
colonnade ran round the west side of this room in two stages. Be- 
yond the hall is a larger room, only partly excavated, with more col- 
umn bases. It will probably prove to be the principal megaron (hall) 
of the Palace. . . . Above the stairs are traces of a further higher 
flight having existed, and in parts we find evidence of two storeys 
above the basement. It is altogether unexampled and unexpected. 

It now became clear to Evans that, while the buildings 
around the upper courtyard, on top of the mound, were used 
mainly for official purposes, the spacious domestic quarters of 
the Royal Family were built much lower down on a platform 
cut out of the steep eastern slope, overlooking the river valley. 
Hence the need for this monumental staircase, originally of five 
flights, of which three still exist. The Grand Staircase, as Evans 
named it, and the suite of noble apartments to which it leads, 
are themselves a monument to the skill of Evans and his archi- 
tectural team. As they dug into the shelving hillside, they had 
to support, strengthen and partially restore these high, toppling 
walls, which otherwise would have collapsed into a heap of rub- 
ble. How they did this will be described later. 

As the work went on, more and more fragments of painted 
frescoes came to light, but most were so small that restoring the 
original picture was like solving a complex jigsaw puzzle with 
the added complication that much of the puzzle was missing and 
therefore had to be guessed. Yet this was just the kind of imag- 
inative reconstruction which Evans loved, and he also had the 
wisdom to engage a remarkable Swiss artist, M. Gillieron, who 
possessed an extraordinary gift for patiently fitting together the 
tiny fragments, sensitively and accurately restoring what was 
missing, and then making accurate reproductions which were 
then hung, as nearly as possible, in the position of the originals. 
The latter were removed to the doubtful security of the Candia 
Museum. All the objects found were, of course, the property of 
the Cretan authorities, except for a few articles of which dupli- 
cates existed. These Evans was able to take to England; they 
can be seen, with some of Gillieron's lovely fresco reproductions, 
at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. 

Evidently, during the period of its greatest glory, the coni- 


dors, porches and rooms of state of the Palace of Minos had 
glowed with rich and sensuous color, delicate blues and greens 
and russet painted on smooth plaster. The Minoans may have 
copied this method of decoration from the Egyptians, but in style 
there is no resemblance between the stiff, highly conventionalized 
art of most Egyptian wall paintings and the naturalism (com- 
paratively speaking) of the Minoan frescoes. I say, "with most 
Egyptian wall paintings," advisedly, because there is one and 
only one period of Egyptian art which does show remarkable 
similarity to that of Crete. This was the famous "heresy period" 
under the Pharaoh Akhnaten, when for the first and only time the 
rigid, hierarchical conventions of Egyptian art suddenly broke 
down, and the royal artists ( it is believed under the direct guid- 
ance of Akhnaten himself) painted human beings, birds, beasts 
and flowers as they saw them and not according to an accepted 
religious tradition. 

The significance of this departure is that it occurred round 
about the year 1400 B.C. the generally accepted date on which 
final disaster, earthquake or foreign attack or both struck the 
Palaces of Crete, including Knossos. It is tempting to believe 
though it is by no means proved that refugee Cretan artists may 
have fled to Akhnaten's court at about this period. 

Some of the frescoes represented human scenes; others were 
charming decorative motifs, often drawn from nature flowers 
and grasses, with butterflies flitting among them. The symbol of 
the double axe, which we have already encountered among the 
Mycenaean grave treasures, occurred frequently, and so did our 
old friend, the figure-of-eight shield. At Mycenae Schliemann 
had found it represented on tiny seals and signets, but here it was 
employed, full size, as a wall decoration. It was now possible to 
recognize clearly how the shield was made of a bull's hide, 
just as Homer said, and strengthened with crosspieces, presum- 
ably of wood. In one of the rooms of state, which Evans named 
'The Hall of the Double Axes," he believed that actual shields 
had hung on the wall as part of the decoration; so he had replicas 
made of painted metal and hung in place. They can be seen 
on Plate 40. 

But the most fascinating of all these colored frescoes were 
those representing Minoan men and women especially women. 


When these were first discovered and restored by Gilli&ron, they 
caused wonder and astonishment throughout the world. And no 
wonder for they were quite unlike the classical Greeks, unlike 
the Egyptians, unlike the Babylonians, unlike any ancient people 
whose painted or sculptured representations had survived from 
the remote past. As far as the Minoan women were concerned 
in their dress, manner and style of hairdressing, the nearest com- 
parison which the astonished scholars could make was to the 
fashionable beauties of their own time 1900! One savant, on first 
seeing them, broke into the incredulous exclamation: "Mais, ce 
sont dcs Parisiennesr 

An examination of Plates 30 and 32 will explain his astonish- 
ment. These highly bred Minoan ladies are evidently attending 
some court function perhaps the reception of some foreign am- 
bassador, or, more likely, a display of that strange, sinister sport 
in which the young "bull leapers" exhibited their desperate skill. 
The figures are shown on what seems to be a "grandstand"; and 
in the background are sketched, in the economical method of a 
modern cartoonist, a tightly packed crowd of faces, with black 
hair, white dots for eyes, and white collars. The prevailing colors 
are rust-red and buff. In the center of the "grandstand" is what 
Evans believed to be the shrine of the Minoan goddess, distin- 
guished by the "horns of consecration" which decorate its roof 
(another allusion to the bull). But on either side of this central 
shrine are groups of ladies, much more carefully drawn, and it 
is these which form the subject of Plate 32. 

Here is Evans's detailed analysis of these scenes. 

... on either side of the miniature shrine are groups of ladies seated 
and chattering, gaily dressed in the height of fashion, with elaborately 
coiffured hair, engaged apparently in gay chit-chat and ignoring what 
is going on before them. ... At a glance we recognize Court ladies 
in elaborate toilet. They are fresh from the coiffeur's hand with hair 
jris6 and curled about the head and shoulders; it is confined by a 
band over the forehead and falls down the back in long separate 
tresses, twisted round with strings of beads and jewels . . . the 
sleeves are puffed, and the constricted girdles and flounced skirts 
equally recall quite modern fashions. A narrow band appears across 
the chest which suggests a diaphanous chemise, but the nipples of 
the breasts are indicated beneath these . . . [giving] a dtcottett ef- 


feet. The dresses are gaily coloured with bands of blue, red and yel- 
low, showing white stripes and at times black striations. . . . 

. . . The lively nature of the conversation between No. 3 (the 
lady to whose coiffure the net belongs) and her neighbour at once 
strikes the eye. The latter points her statement by thrusting forward 
her right arm so as almost to lay her hand on the other's lap while 
her confidante raises hers in amazement "You dont say so!" . . . 
These scenes of feminine confidences, of tittle-tattle and society scan- 
dals, take us far away from the productions of Classical Art in any 
age. Such lively genre and rococo atmosphere bring us nearer to quite 
modern times. . . . 

As one by one these marvels were told to the world in 
Evans's vivid reports to The Times and various periodicals, and 
were supplemented by the comments of other visitors, the full 
grandeur of Evans's achievement and the immensity of the task 
which lay ahead of him became apparent. When he returned to 
England in June, 1901, recognition of the importance of the 
Cretan discoveries was general and immediate: Fellowship of 
the Royal Society (June 6th, 1901), honorary degrees at Edin- 
burgh and Dublin (also in 1901), and diplomas from foreign 

Then, following this up, Evans announced, in an address to 
the British Association in Glasgow, his proposed solution to the 
difficult problem of dating the successive Knossian strata. It was 
a bold, masterly solution, and though in later years Evans him- 
self had to modify and extend it, in the main his principle of 
dividing Minoan culture into three broad periods of develop- 
ment Early, Middle and Late Minoan, synchronous with the 
Old, Middle, and New Empires of Egypt, is still accepted today. 
To devise such a system was in itself no small achievement for 
one man, but Evans recognized that in the years ahead of him 
it would be his task to build a structure of sound knowledge from 
an amorphous mass of stone, pottery and fragmented frescoes; 
and, like an honest builder, he had first to see that his foundations 
were firm. 



IN 1902, when Evans returned for his third season's digging at 
Knossos, trouble arose over finances. Already he had spent some 
forty-five hundred pounds, more than half of which was his own 
money, but the rest of which had been raised by the Cretan Ex- 
ploration Fund. For the benefit of those unfamiliar with the financ- 
ing of archaeological work, it should be said that it is usual for 
funds to be raised by a society or group of societies interested in 
the project; most of the subscribers are people of moderate 
means, but there are also universities, museums and other learned 
institutions with more ample resources. But these people naturally 
want to see that they are getting value for their money, especially* 
the museums, which, in the early days, could sometimes expect 
a proportion of the finds for their own collections. 

At this point a sharp disagreement broke out between D. G. 
Hogarth, Director of the British School at Athens, who had exca- 
vated the cave sanctuary of Zeus, and Evans, with whom Hogarth 
was now working in close collaboration at Knossos. Hogarth, as 
a professional archaeologist, naturally took a salary and expenses. 
Evans, who was "comfortably circumstanced" to put it mildly 
could not understand this; to him it seemed like making money 
out of religion. On Hogarth's side and they were both men of 
strong character there was irritation at Evans's de luxe methods 
of excavation, especially the expensive reconstruction of build- 
ings, which, while greatly benefiting the lay visitor to the site, 
went far beyond what was archaeologically necessary. There was 
plain speaking on both sides, of which the following letter from 
Hogarth must serve as example: 

These expensive methods are yours in digging, as in collecting 
and in ordinary life. You are a rich man's son, and have probably 



never been at a loss for money. At the other pole to you stands Petrie 
I see advantages in the methods of both. If you spend much more 
in proportion than Petrie, you produce far worthier results in pub- 
lished form, and one feels that nothing has been spared to obtain 
expert accuracy. One can't feel that with Petrie's rough plans and 
illustrations; nor again does he leave a site so that it is a gain for the 
spectator [my italics]. 

The drawback of your method is that it does not appeal to peo- 
ple's pockets. All P.'s "cave-man" plan of life has been deliberately 
adopted to convince the subscriber that every penny goes into the 
earth. There is no doubt that unless you sue in forma pauperis public 
subscription will not follow you. That you cannot do. You are well 
known as a collector of rare and costly things, and as your father's 
son, and the public will not be convinced. I am not talking in the air, 
for I am continually chaffed about the "princely" way things are done 
in Crete, and I have lately heard that reports of our Cretan houses, 
brought back I suppose by the big tourist parties, have decided some 
old subscribers not to pay up again. For those houses I am, 1 know, 
as much responsible as you. ... In a less degree the same difficulty 
dogs me I and my wife do not look like P. and his wife. But to 
live by public subscription we should have to! ... 

In the same letter from Hogarth occurs a passage which sums 
up the whole problem, and explains why Evans eventually de- 
cided to shoulder the whole financial burden of excavation him- 
self, to the lasting benefit of all visitors to Knossos. 

Restorations like the Throne Room are not a question of methods, 
but of the gratifying of a desire to reconstruct tangibly what must 
otherwise only be imagined. But you justly admit that it is a luxury 
which everyone cannot pay for, and perhaps others (the subscribers 
to the Excavation Funds) can hardly be expected to pay for. 

From that date 1902 onwards, for thirty years, Arthur 
Evans devoted his life to the excavation and, in part, reconstitu- 
tion of the greatest Minoan Palace in Crete; and he also pro- 
duced, over a number of years, a work of literary scholarship 
which, in the long run, will probably outlast even the stronghold 
of Minos himself. For in this fevered world which we have in- 
herited (and how Evans hated itl) no monument of stone, how- 
ever ancient, beautiful or revered, is safe; all, equally, are at the 


mercy of "a boy in a bomber/' But perhaps, even after the holo- 
caust of an atomic war, there may survive, in some remote place, 
the great volumes of Evans's Palace of Minos. And if that should 
happen, our surviving descendants can, if they wish, know as 
much about the prehistoric civilization of the Aegean as we do, 
though not one stone of the Palace itself should remain. 

In a book of this scope it would be impossible and, indeed, 
impertinent, to try to explain in detail all that Evans and his 
professional colleagues on other sites such as Halbherr, Hogarth, 
Boyd, Seager, Marinatos achieved in Crete during the first 
twenty years of our century. All I can hope to do is to direct the 
reader's attention to the books which tell the whole story, and, in 
a few brief extracts, to give a taste of their quality. The full list 
will be found at the back of this book, but as a starting point for 
anyone wishing to learn more about the Minoan civilization, there 
are four outstanding works which have given me pleasure not 
only for the information which they contain, but because they are 
extremely well written. First, of course, comes Evans's own Palace 
of Minos but this is monumental, and before approaching it I 
would recommend three smaller works. These are John Pendle- 
bury's The Archaeology of Crete, Joan Evans's Time and Chance 
( especially useful for Evans's family background and early years ) 
and Crete, the Forerunner of Greece, by B. M. and H. W. Hawes. 

Without reflection, it is easy to fall into the mistake of im- 
agining that only one archaeologist Evans discovered the pre- 
historic civilization of Crete. True, he was the master discoverer; 
he had the finest site, and the most money to spend on excava- 
tion; but from 1900 onwards, when peaceful conditions made 
investigation possible, a succession of scholars explored and exca- 
vated in the island. Soon it became clear that there were many 
scores of "Minoan" sites only awaiting the spade. Halbherr, at 
Phaestos in the south, excavated a palace second only to Knossos 
in size and grandeur. 

Nearby, at Hagia Triadha, he revealed a "Royal Villa" with 
superb frescoes, and here some of the finest examples of Minoan 
art were found, including the famous "Harvester" vase, a fine 
sarcophagus, and the steatite "rhyton" with boxers, illustrated in 
this book (see Plate 41). 

Miss Boyd and Mr. R. B. Seager found at Gournia, in the 


east, the extensive remains of a Minoan town. Here Evans had 
given the due. He had told Miss Boyd that there were Iron Age 
tombs on the heights, two thousand feet above the isthmus; and 
while excavating them in 1900, she became convinced that there 
had once been a Bronze Age settlement somewhere in the vicin- 
ity. A year later, with the help of Cretan peasants, she and her 
colleague, Miss Wheeler, found the site. . . . 

Within twenty-four hours thirty men were at work . . . cutting 
down the carobs and digging trial trenches. ... In less than three 
days they had opened houses, were following paved roads, and were 
in possession of enough vases and sherds, bearing octopus, ivy-leaf, 
double-axe, and other unmistakably Minoan designs, to make it cer- 
tain that they had found an important settlement. . . . 

Gournia is especially interesting because, unlike the princely 
palaces of Knossos and Phaestos, it seems to have been an arti- 
sans' town where, perhaps, were produced the superb examples 
of pottery and faience which have been unearthed in the Palaces. 
To quote just one paragraph from the Hawes book, Crete, the 
Forerunner of Greece, originally published in 1909: 

In a well-built house on the top of the ridge a whole carpenter's 
kit lay concealed in a cranny. Was it deliberately hidden ander the 
corridor floor by its owner, when the ships of the destroyers hove in 
sight? In an adjoining room a horizontal black streak in the earth 
showed where there had been a wooden board, now long burned or 
rotted away, and on this housewife's shelf fourteen loom-weights of 
clay and stone were ranged in order. Other houses contained vats for 
washing oil, standing on stone benches, with the amphorae and stamni 
before them to catch the liquid, just as they were left 3,500 years 
ago. . . . 

An interesting contrast to the Court ladies of Knossos. . . , 
Boyd and Seager at Gournia, Halbherr at Phaestos, Carr 
Bosanquet and Dawkins at Praesos and Palaikastro, Hazzidakis 
and Zanthoudides at point after point the rich soil of Crete 
yielded its archaeological treasures to the questing Edwardian 
scholars. Articles appeared in newspapers and learned journals; 
theories were propounded, supported and demolished. Mean- 


while Evans, securely possessed of the finest archaeological site 
on the island, became the leading authority on Minoan civiliza- 
tion, to whom other workers gladly came for advice and help. 

It is very important to understand his dating system, which 
was sound and scholarly. It is usually difficult for the layman to 
appreciate how an archaeologist can "date" a site when no written 
records or positively dated monuments are available. We have 
already seen how, at Troy, Mycenae and Tiryns, Schliemann and 
his successors had not been able to fix even an approximate date 
to their discoveries; they knew that the lowest layers or strata of 
a long-occupied site must clearly be the oldest, but that was 
about all. This gave ammunition to those who wished to discredit 
the German's discoveries one "authority," for example, even 
claimed that the Mycenaean graves were post-Christian. Yet 
without positive proof of date it was impossible to disprove even 
such absurd theories as this one. 

How then were Evans, Hogarth, Halbherr and the other 
archaeologists in Crete able to establish accurate dates? The 
answer is through the Egyptian objects found on the sites. 

It was fortunate for archaeology that the Minoans had had 
cultural and commercial contact with the Egyptians from very 
early times from the pre-Dynastic period, Evans believed. 
Those who have read something of Ancient Egyptian history will 
know that it is divided into thirty Dynasties, beginning in about 
3200 B.C. and ending with the start of the "Graeco-Roman period" 
in 332 B.C. The period of twenty-five hundred years from the first 
to the end of the Twenty-fourth Dynasty (712 B.C.) is divided for 
convenience into three main periods of development: the Old, 
Middle and New Kingdoms; it is worth while trying to memorize 
these, as they help in understanding how Evans dated the Mi- 
noan civilization. 

At the beginning come the First and Second Egyptian 
Dynasties (circa 3200-2780 B.C.). The almost legendary figure, 
Menes, was the founder of the First Dynasty; he combined for 
the first time the hitherto-separated Kingdoms of Upper and 
Lower Egypt. There were, however, Egyptian kings before him, 
as Amelineau and Petrie discovered; but the period before 3200 
B.C. is called for convenience Pre-Dynastic. 

Then came the first of the three great epochs into which 


Egyptian history is divided the Old Kingdom (2780-2100 B.C.). 
This period includes that of the great pyramid builders who ruled 
from Memphis in Lower Egypt. It covers eight Dynasties, from 
the Third to the Tenth. 

Next comes the Middle Empire (2100-1700 B.C.), covering 
the Eleventh to the Thirteenth Dynasties. This has been called 
Egypt's "Feudal Age," and was one of considerable expansion to 
both north and south. At the end of this period a time of weak- 
ness and anarchy was followed by an invasion and occupation of 
Egypt by Asiatic monarchs, known as the Hyksos or "Shepherd 
Kings," who controlled the country for about a hundred and fifty 
years until thrown out by a resurgent Egypt 

Then followed the period of Egypt's greatest imperial ex- 
pansion, the first part of the so-called New Empire (1555-712 
B.C.). Only its first three Dynasties, from the Eighteenth to the 
Twentieth, need concern us, as after that the ancient civilization 
of Crete passed into oblivion. But this was the period of Egyptian 
history of which most is known. It was the age of Tuthmoses III, 
the "Napoleon of Egypt," who raised its military glory to its 
highest point; of the powerful Amenophis III; and his fascinating, 
enigmatical son Akhnaten, who began a religious revolution, 
nearly lost an empire, and may well have welcomed Cretan artists 
to his court The following two Dynasties, the Nineteenth and 
Twentieth, saw a succession of powerful kings, several of whom 
bore the famous name Harnesses, and one of whom, Harnesses III, 
is recorded on Egyptian temples as having won a great victory 
over the "sea peoples" who tried to invade Egypt round about 
the year 1200 B.C. It was to have been a land invasion, supported 
by naval forces. The land armies moved down from Syria, while 
their navies accompanied them along the coast; but somewhere 
between Syria and Egypt Harnesses met and defeated both, and 
the invasion never took place. This episode, as we shall see, has 
great relevance to the history of the Aegean civilization espe- 
cially of Mycenae. After 1090 B.C. the end of the Twentieth 
Dynasty the rest of the history of Egypt does not affect our 

In an early stage of the excavations Evans had discovered in 
the Knossian Palace "an Egyptian statue of diorite" which was 
identified as belonging to the Twelfth Dynasty, and as the work 


went on, at Knossos and at other Minoan sites, other examples of 
undoubted Egyptian manufacture were discovered. In themselves 
these little objects a clay statuette, perhaps, or a tiny bronze 
figure of the god Amun were valueless, but their importance 
to the scholars was inestimable. Why? At the certain risk of being 
accused of vulgarity by scholars, I am going to compare these 
Egyptian trivia with the vital clues which the hero discovers in 
a detective story the few threads from the suit of the murderer, 
detected under the nails of the dead man, or an even more exact 
parallel the fact that, when Mr. X was seen leaving the victim's 
house, Mr. Y happened to notice that it was exactly eleven thir- 
teen P.M. . . . 

Let us suppose that Evans finds as he did an Egyptian 
statue of the Twelfth Dynasty (2000-1790 B.C.) embedded in one 
of the strata of the Palace of Knossos. He then knows beyond a 
shadow of doubt that no object found in that stratum pottery, 
faience, architectural remains can possibly be earlier than 2000 
B.C. Of course a single statue might be by some odd chance a 
survival from an earlier age, so that the closing date of the 
Twelfth Dynasty ( 1790 B.C. ) might not be the latest possible date 
for the archaeological strata in which the clue was found. But if, 
at Knossos, or at another Minoan site, other Egyptian objects of 
the same Dynasty are found in strata containing Minoan objects 
of similar type, then it is safe to assume that such objects belong 
to a period between the years 2000 and 1790 B.C. As the work 
went on, at Knossos, Phaestos, Gournia, Mallia, other datable 
Egyptian objects came to light; and with each of such discoveries 
it became possible to establish earliest and latest dates for the 
Minoan pottery and other objects among which the Egyptian 
articles were found. 

A moment's reflection will make clear the tremendous signifi- 
cance of such finds. If, for instance, Eighteenth Dynasty Egyptian 
objects were always accompanied by Minoan pottery, faience, 
painted frescoes and architecture of a particular kind, then, 
logically and naturally, all "Minoan" objects of a similar type, 
wherever they were found in Cyprus or in the Cyclades must 
belong broadly to the same period (allowing for the fact that 
time must elapse before a fashion, originating in Crete, could 
spread to the outer fringes of the Minoan Empire. ) 


By such methods Evans and other archaeologists in Crete 
were able to establish that some of the Minoan deposits dated as 
far back as the pre-Dynastic period of Egyptian history ( i.e., be- 
fore 3200 B.C.). 

Then the Egyptologists came to the aid of their colleagues 
working in Crete. In Egyptian tombs it was customary to bury 
numerous articles needed by the dead man in the Underworld 
furniture, clothing, and vessels for food and drink. ( We have al- 
ready noted the pictures of the mysterious Keftiu on the walls of 
Egyptian tombs.) Now Egyptologists began to examine afresh 
the objects found in Egyptian tombs, especially pottery. Among 
them was pottery not of Egyptian provenance, which would now 
be identified unmistakably with the Minoan ware now being 
brought to light in Crete. So another check on dating could be 
made. And as these finds both in Egypt and Crete were ex- 
amined, re-examined, discussed and correlated, so, gradually, 
Arthur Evans was able to draw up his Grand Design his chrono- 
logical system of dating Minoan objects and similar objects found 
in the other islands of the Aegean and the mainland. 

For, as the work proceeded, archaeologists came to recognize 
that this civilization, which Evans believed had originated in 
Crete, had spread to other Aegean islands and even further east- 
ward to Cyprus, and the coast of Asia Minor, and northward to 
the mainland of Greece. In all these areas pottery was found 
similar to, though not identical with, that found in Crete. Where- 
as, at the beginning of Evans's digging, his finds were regarded as 
Mycenaean, progress showed that there were real differences 
from what had been found at Mycenae. A need arose for a set 
of terms which would differentiate the characteristic cultures of 
the different areas of the Aegean. Hence "Minoan'* came to be 
used to describe prehistoric Cretan objects, "Cycladic" for the 
islands and "Helladic" for the mainland. I introduce these tech- 
nical terms only so that readers who wish to follow this subject 
further ( as I hope they will ) will not be confused by the varying 
names used by scholars to describe this prehistoric civilization of 
the eastern Mediterranean. 

Incidentally, non-archaeologists sometimes laugh at the at- 
tention which experts pay to what appear to be uninteresting 
fragments of pottery. But the archaeological value of pottery is 


precisely that it has no monetary value. Objects of gold and sil- 
ver, or even of bronze and iron, will be stolen. But who cares 
about heaps of broken fragments of pots, vases and cups? They 
remain scattered, unheeded, on ancient sites for thousands of 
years as I have seen them in Egypt as well as Greece. But to 
the modern archaeologist they provide a definitive method of 
dating a site. One no longer needs intuition or judgment to 
achieve this; any young student who has gone through his course 
can do it. Even I amateur as I am reached a stage when I 
could pick up a fragment of a Mycenaean goblet and say non- 
chalantly, "Ah Late Helladic III," without causing raised eye- 
brows among my archaeological friends. 

Evans's achievement was to mark off the three great periods 
of Minoan civilization which could be correlated with the three 
great periods of Egyptian civilization the Old Kingdom, the 
Middle Empire and the New Empire. He wrote in The Palace of 

For this considerable space of time, extending over some two 
thousand years, the divisions here adopted into three main sections, 
the "Early," "Middle" and "Late" Minoan, each in turn with three 
periods of its own, will not be thought too minute. It allows, in fact, 
for each period an average duration of nearly two centuries and a half, 
the earlier periods being naturally die longer. This triple division, in- 
deed, whether we regard the course of Minoan civilization as a whole 
or its threefold stages, is in its very essence logical and scientific. In 
every characteristic phase of culture we note in fact the period of 
rise, maturity, and decay. Even within the limits of many of these 
periods are such distinct ceramic phases that it has been found con- 
venient to divide them into two sections (a) and (b). 

The three main phases of Minoan history roughly correspond 
with those of the Early, the Middle and the earlier part of the New 
Kingdom in Egypt. . . . 

Now, at last, it was possible to establish dates for the dis- 
coveries of Schliemann and Dorpfcld at Troy, Mycenae, Tiryns, 
Orchomenos and elsewhere. For it was recognized that some of 
the pottery, arms, jewels, ornaments, etc., found in the shaft 
graves at Mycenae and at Tiryns, were demonstrably Minoan in 
type, though some were pretty certainly made by mainland 


craftsmen following a Cretan model. Thus it was established that 
the treasures found in the Mycenaean shaft graves were dated 
from a late period of Minoan civilization, circa 1600 B.C. prov- 
ing that they were far older than the Trojan War, and could not 
possibly have belonged to Agamemnon and his companions. 

And yet, in the scale of Minoan civilization, they were late 
very late; only two hundred years before the catastrophe which 
overtook Knossos in 1400. Yet Crete could boast a highly de- 
veloped civilization more than a thousand years earlier than that. 
. . . Deeper and deeper went the bewildered but fascinated 
archaeologists, groping among the very roots of European pre- 
history. And in the lead, his torch held aloft to penetrate the 
darkness of the labyrinth, strode Arthur Evans. 



I SAT before a blazing fire in the big, comfortable drawing room 
of the Villa Ariadne. Manoli, after piling on more sweet-smelling 
logs, had gone to bed. The de Jongs, who had joined me for din- 
ner, had returned to their cottage. It was two hours since I had 
watched the yellow light from Piet's torch moving slowly down 
the winding path until it disappeared behind the cypresses. Now 
my hosts too were in bed and probably asleep, and I fancied that 
I alone was awake. In fact I had never felt more intensely awake; 
the slightest creak from the wainscoting, the intermittent fluting 
of some creature in the dark garden outside, made me start. 

On my knees lay one of the heavy volumes of Evans's great 
work, The Palace of Minos, richly bound in blue, with the head 
of the Minoan Priest King embossed in gold on the cover. I had 
read the volumes before, in far-off London, but to hold one in my 
hands now, while sitting alone at night in Evans's former home, 
with the Palace itself waiting in the darkness outside, pro- 
duced an excitement which was almost too intense. I tried to 
concentrate on the page before me, but fancied movement in 
the garden outside brought me to my feet. It was nothing; just 
the moving shadow of one of the cypresses, but I had to go to 
one of the tall sashed windows and look out. 

There was a full moon, and the palms stood quite still 
and black against the luminous sky, the edges of their leaves 
tipped with silver. About five hundred feet away stood a statue 
of the Emperor Hadrian, blanched by the moonlight, Evans had 
found it in the ruins of a Roman villa near the Palace it had 
probably formed part of the garden ornament of some Roman 
official had dug it up and made it serve the same purpose in 
his garden. There stood the Emperor, the man who had built the 
great wall from the Tyne to die Solway in my own country, look- 



ing rather splendid on his plinth, with his toga draped gracefully 
over one arm. And yet . . . Hadrian . , . really, the man was 
almost my contemporary compared with the Minoans! When he 
made his tour of the Roman Empire in when was it, A.D. 120- 
125? the last pale flame of Cretan civilization had guttered out 
more than a thousand years before. Hadrian had lived some 
eighteen hundred years before our time. Yet eighteen hundred 
years before Hadrian's time, Crete had known a civilization in 
many respects finer than that of Rome. 

I went back to the fire and then noticed, for the first time, 
the formidable head of the Minoan Bull a plaster cast which 
hung on the wall to the right of the fireplace. It was black, with 
gold horns, white nostrils and bright, red-rimmed eyes, and as 
I moved around the room, taking out books from the shelves, 
examining pictures and ornaments, those little red eyes seemed to 
follow me. . . . 

Filled with a strange, restless elation, I left the drawing 
room to explore the rest of the empty villa. I moved from room 
to empty room, switching on the naked electric lights which 
gave to much of the house a severe "institutional" appearance. 
A curious, dry, antiseptic smell permeated the air, and my foot- 
steps gave back ringing metallic echoes, for Sir Arthur, who 
had planned the Villa Ariadne, had built it of concrete on a 
steel framework as a protection against earthquakes. Here and 
there lay cardboard boxes filled with fragments of broken pot- 
sherds, left by the students of the British School at Athens. 
Plaster casts of treasures found in the Palace hung on the dis- 
tempered walls; in the hall was a fine copy of the "charging-bull 
fresco" a massive relief of a red bull with lowered head hurtling 
across a pale blue ground. And nearby, in incongruous contrast, 
hung pleasantly sentimental landscapes of a type which I had 
seen in many ex-German messes during the war relics of the 
occupation, when the villa had been the headquarters of the 
German High Command. 

Returning to the first floor, I found the library. Here were 
hundreds of books bearing on almost every aspect of Aegean 
and Egyptian archaeology. Some were new to me. Others were 
old friends. Greedily I took down book after book and, staggering 
under my load, returned along the echoing corridor to the warm, 
firelit drawing room. There I sat on the rug before the fire, spread 


the books around me on the floor, took out my notebook and 
tried once again to focus my mind on the story of Arthur Evans 
and his colleagues from the point at which I had left them in 

From 1903 onwards, Evans divided his time between Oxford 
and Knossos. He would come out to Crete in late winter or early 
spring, work until the summer heat made further excavation 
impracticable and return to England in summer or autumn. A 
few years earlier he had given up his home in Holywell, Oxford, 
bought sixty acres of land on Boars' Hill, outside the city, and 
built himself a house there. He called it Youlbury, after the 
piece of heathland which it overlooked, and, in his leisure hours 
in England, exercised his imagination by creating a romantic 
landscape garden, "trying," in the words of a relative, "to make 
his bit of Berkshire look as much like Bosnia as possible." As 
an illustration of his intense love of natural beauty, the following 
quotation from one of his letters is typical: 

... In the woodland fringe of the opposite Cotswold and Chil- 
tern hills splendid is the impression left by the acres of rose willow- 
herb spread along the slopes. But no sight surely in Nature's wild 
garden can excel the view near at hand of Hen Wood in May with its 
dreamy haze of bluebells, stretching between the oaks, wherever a 
vista opens, as though some mirage had reversed the blue of heaven; 
or, as a child once put it, "as if a bit of the sky had fallen down/' 

Denied children himself, he loved to have them around 
him; he adopted Lancelot Freeman, the young son of Margaret's 
brother. One child at Youlbury made a good excuse for inviting 
others, and the big house above the "dreamy haze of bluebells" 
was rarely without the sound of children's voices. He also bought 
a car, at a time when it was adventurous to possess one, and loved 
to go for long journeys in it, preferably as fast as possible. 

Soon he had decided to build another Youlbury for himself 
in Crete. Now that he could foresee many years of work ahead 
of him, the Turkish house he had taken in Herakleion was no 
longer practicable, being too far from Knossos. So, in 1906, 
Christian Doll, who had succeeded Theodore Fyfe as Evans's 
architect, built the Villa Ariadne for him. It embodied many 


of Evans's own ideas; basement bedrooms for coolness in sum- 
mer, and steel and concrete construction for strength. Around it 
he formed a pleasant Mediterranean garden of palms and cy- 
presses and purple-flowered bougainvillaea. This became his 
spring and summer residence for many years, from which he 
ruled his domain like a grand seigneur. The villa was both his 
home and his workshop. Here he entertained fellow-scholars, 
such as Halbherr, and the many distinguished visitors attracted 
to Crete by the fame of his discoveries; and here, in the evening 
after the day's work, he would sit with Doll, Duncan Mackenzie, 
Hogarth and others, planning, discussing, arguing and preparing 
for the enormous task of "publishing" the finds. 

The layman might think that the principal justification for 
excavation is the uncovering of the site itself. To the archaeol- 
ogist such work is almost valueless unless every part of the 
site has been "published" i.e., fully described, with every 
object, down to the smallest fragment of pottery; with indica- 
tions of their position and relation to other objects; and with 
a complete set of photographs, plans and drawings. Even a 
modest site belonging to a known culture, e.g., Egyptian or 
Babylonian, may take years to publish adequately; but Evans 
was faced with the accumulation of more than two thousand 
years' continuous habitation of one place, embodying the ex- 
tensive ruins of several palaces, and belonging to an unknown 
civilization which he could interpret only in the light of his own 
intuition and judgment. 

In 1908, his father, John Evans, died at the age of eighty -five, 
leaving Arthur the bulk of his fortune. Only a few months later 
the death of a cousin brought to him the Dickinson estate. At 
fifty-seven, Arthur Evans found himself a richer man than even 
his father had been. 

One of Evans's greatest disappointments was that he never 
succeeded in deciphering the mysterious Minoan script which 
had first attracted him to Crete. After more than thirty years of 
wrestling with the problem, he eventually had to write, in The 
Palace of Minos: 

. . . the widespread hopes of its early interpretation were not veri- 
fied. . . . According to every indication such as that supplied by 


the local and personal names of pre-Hellenic Crete, and even the ap- 
preciable verbal survival in Greek itself the root affinities of the or- 
iginal language lay on the Anatolian side [i.e. in Asia Minor]. The 
phonetic value of the signs themselves was itself unknown, and 
though light on them might be obtained from the early Cypriote syl- 
labary, even this . . . only exists in a limited degree. . . . All I 
have been able here to attempt after copying over 1,600 documents 
of which the whole or some material part has survived ... is of a 
most preliminary nature. 

He decided that the numerous clay tablets, which had so 
excited him when he found them near the western storerooms 
of magazines, were merely inventories. **, . . it appears that the 
documents in an overwhelming degree refer to accounts and 
lists of persons and possessions" and he managed to decipher 
the numerals. And John Pendlebury, the brilliant young scholar 
and friend of Evans who was Curator of Knossos in the thirties, 
had to admit in his ArcJuieology of Crete that: 

. . . what the language of the Minoans was is as yet impossible to say 
except that it was not Greek ... it would be a profitless task to 
guess at it. The material is there and is arranged. We can only hope 
for a bilingual clue; perhaps one day a bill of lading in Egyptian and 
Minoan will be found at Komo. Even then it may turn out to be a 
dead language which has left no descendant behind to help in its 
decipherment. 1 

Some of the material is contained in Evans's book, Scripta 
Minoa, which he published in 1909, after optimistically persuad- 
ing the Clarendon Press to cast a complete fount of Minoan type. 

Unable to decipher the writing which in any case, he 
suspected, might not include historical records Evans was 
forced to interpret the Minoan civilization through its buildings, 
its art and, above all, through the tiny engraved seal stones and 
signets found in such abundance and of which he had now 
amassed a large collection. "Complete in themselves," he wrote, 
"these little intaglio types often serve as an epitome of more 
fully elaborated works of the great Art, whether in relief or 
painting, only fragmentary remains of which have been pre- 

1 "Linnar B" was deciphered in 1952. See Appendix "B." 


served." Here again his microscopic sight, and his feeling for style 
and stylistic development, trained through long years of numis- 
matic study, aided him greatly. It is in this imaginative, yet exact 
and scholarly, interpretation of tiny objects that Evans's genius 
appears most clearly. 

For example, what did the Minoans believe? What deities 
did they worship? Evans discovered, chiefly through the tiny 
scenes on the bead seals, that there appeared again and again 
a female figure, sometimes alone, sometimes with acolytes and 
adorers, who was clearly a goddess. Sometimes she stands on a 
peak, with lion supporters. Sometimes she is bareheaded, and 
occasionally in seals and statuettes belonging to the later, more 
sophisticated "Palatial" period she wears the fashionable dress 
of the Minoan court lady, with tight-waisted bodice and naked 
breasts, and a crown or tiara (see Plate 32a). Evans called 
her the "Minoan Mother Goddess." Occasionally she is accom- 
panied by what appears to be a male deity, but he is never in a 
position of equality; he may be considered her son. A delightful 
ivory statuette of this "boy god*' (now in the Ashrnolean Mu- 
seum) is shown on Plate 42. Could this Mother Goddess, 2 thought 
Evans, be associated with Rhea, and was the boy god her son, 

On other seals and later-discovered statuettes, the Minoan 
goddess was shown holding a snake in each outstretched hand 
(see Plate 32a), or in still other instances the snakes were 
wreathed tightly around her arms. Among primitive peoples 
today the snake is often revered; anthropologists and students of 
primitive religion have observed that the cult of the snake is often 
associated with the propitiation of an earth deity. After close 
study of Minoan scenes, together with those from other ancient 
cultures in which snake cults were practiced, Evans suggested 
that the Minoan Snake Goddess was the Mother Goddess in her 
aspect as "Lady of the Underworld"; the reason for this insistence 
on the propitiation of the Earth became clear to him later, as 
we shall see. 

We have mentioned the "Room of the Throne," which 

1 Some scholars disagree with Evans. Professor Nilsson, for example, be- 
lieves that the figures which Evans thought represented one goddess actually 
represent several, each with her own attributes. 


was a chamber rather like a cathedral chapter house, with a 
throne in the middle of the broadest wall, flanked by stone 
benches on each side. It fronted and overlooked a rectangular 
pit, approached by flights of steps, which at first the excavators 
took to be a bath, but which Evans later decided was a "lustral 
area" i.e., a place in which some ritual of anointing took place. 
As he dug in other parts of the Palace, more of these "lustral 
areas" came to light. All were elaborately built. All were ap- 
proached by pillared flights of steps; none of them had been 
built to retain water; nor was there any provision for the release 
of waste water which the Minoans, expert hydraulic engineers, 
would certainly not have omitted had the mysterious pits been 
baths. Then, from other parts of Crete, came reports of similar 
lustral areas" Halbherr found them in the Palace of Phaestos, 
and there were others at Mallia. Had they, mused Evans, some 
connection with the earth cult? He became more and more con- 
vinced that they had a religious purpose, and that, indeed, much 
of the Palace, especially the western half, was devoted to a 
religious cult. In fact Minos or a race of kings who may have 
borne that name had probably been Priest Kings. 

Unlike their cousins, the Egyptologists, the archaeologists 
of Crete had no written documents to guide them; nor had the 
Minoans been as obliging as the Ancient Egyptians who used 
the walls of their temples to preserve pictures and written records 
of historic events. They seemed quite uninterested in recording 
triumphs, battles, treaties and conquests, unlike the Egyptians 
and the blood-lusting Assyrians. 3 Instead they painted delightful 
scenes from nature, flowers and birds and trees, processions of 
noble youths like the Cup-bearer and the even lovelier fresco 
of the Priest King, discovered near the southeast entrance 
scenes of public ceremony, sport or ritual at which the Court 
ladies prinked and chattered and, again and again, on corridor 
walls, in miniature statuary, and on the tiny bead seals the 

Had the bull, too, some religious significance? Evans noted 
that on the seals and signets, on the fresco paintings and else- 
where, appeared the conventionalized symbol of the bull's horns. 

*This is all the more remarkable as the Minoans were in contact with 
Egyptians for more than a thousand years. 


Sometimes it appeared as a frieze above the roof of a shrine of 
the Mother Goddess. At others it appeared in conjunction with 
that other familiar Minoan symbol, the double axe. On the south 
side of the Palace he found remains of a huge specimen of these 
"Horns of Consecration" which at one time had evidently sur- 
mounted the roof of the Palace, so that all approaching from the 
southern road could see it. Evans reinstated it near the same 
position (see Plate 20). Nevertheless, as his researches continued, 
he decided that the bull had not been worshipped as a diety, 
but that it may have been considered a favorite animal of the 
earth god, and was therefore sometimes sacrificed to him. The 
presence of the Minoan goddess (as shown in the wall paintings) 
at the "bull-leaping" sports seemed to suggest that this ceremony, 
too, may have been a sacrifice. Theseus and the Minotaur the 
twelve Athenian youths and maidens was there some connec- 

The bull-leaping frescoes fascinated people far beyond the 
limited circle of professional archaeologists. Wherever these 
extraordinary pictures were reproduced, with their slim-figured 
Minoan acrobats dark-skinned men and pale-skinned girls, 
both wearing the same scanty costume they aroused contro- 
versy. Was such a fantastic feat possible? In the Villa Ariadne 
and in his study at Youlbury, Evans pored over the pictures, try- 
ing to penetrate the mystery. Here he is describing the fresco 
reproduced on Plate 36. 

In the design . . . the girl acrobat in front seizes the horns of a 
coursing bull at full gallop, one of which seems to run under her left 
armpit. The object of her grip . . . clearly seems to be to gain a 
purchase for a backward somersault over the animars back, such as is 
being performed by the boy [identified conventionally by his darker 

The second female performer behind stretches out both her hands 
as if to catch the flying figure or at least to steady him when he comes 
to earth the right way up. The stationing of this figure handily for 
such an act raises some curious questions as to the arrangements 
within the arena. 

Some authorities refuse to believe that such a performance 
was possible. Professor Baldwin Brown, for instance, showed 


the pictures to a veteran "steer wrestler" from the American 
Far West, who refused to believe that it could be done. "You 
couldn't catch hold of the bull's horns for the start of the 
somersault," he said, "for there's no chance of a person being 
able to obtain a balance when the bull is charging full against 
him." The bull, he added, is three times as strong as a steer, and 
when running, "raises his head sideways and gores anyone in 
front of him." So, as no one has so far offered to put the matter 
to a practical test, the mystery remains a mystery. 

It was while studying the Minoan cult of the bull that 
Evans made a discovery which perfectly illustrates his imagina- 
tive interpretation of a tiny detail one among many such ex- 
amples. On Plates 34 and 35 are reproduced two scenes from 
the two famous golden cups found at Vapheio and first published 
more than ten years before Evans dug at Knossos. These richly 
wrought vessels were thought at first to be "Mycenaean." After 
Evans's Knossian finds they were recognized to be Minoan in 
style, probably imported from Crete, or alternatively produced 
on the mainland by Cretan artists. The discovery of the bull 
frescoes at Knossos aroused new interest in the Vapheio cups, 
as the subject of their lively reliefs was the trapping of wild 
bulls. In the topmost picture, which shows one side of a cup, 
slim-waisted young Minoans are trying to catch a bull in a 
wooded glade. A net was stretched between two trees and the 
bulls driven towards it. In another Vapheio relief a bull is shown 
firmly meshed in the net, but in the scene we have shown, the 
animal has evaded the trap, throwing down one hunter, who 
falls helplessly on his back, while the other desperately grasps the 
animal's horns in an effort to bring him down. And the figure on 
the horns, said Evans, is a girl. "She has locked her legs and 
arms around the monster's horns in such a way that it is im- 
possible for him to transfix her." 

The figure on the Vapheio Cup, thus desperately at grips with the 
horns of the great beast, is certainly that of a girl, in spite of the 
sinewy limbs it displays. This fact, not apparently noted in any de- 
scription of the scene, should be clear to any one intimate with 
Minoan iconography who remembers the parallel wall paintings in 
which the sex is declared by the white skin color ... in the present 


case the luxuriance of the locks is in striking contrast to those of the 
fallen youth in front, which have . . , a short appearance. . . . 

These scenes, Evans thought, paralleled the "bull-leaping 
frescoes" which adorned the walls of the Palace of Minos. First 
the animals were hunted and trapped in the open. Later they 
were made to perform for more sophisticated audiences in the 
bullring of the Knossian Palace. In each case the young men and 
women pitted their skill against the animals. 

But the most interesting illustration of Evans's observation 
is in the other scene we have illustrated, which comes from the 
second Vapheio cup (Plate 34). The two animals were thought 
by earlier archaeologists to be two bulls; indeed, apart from 
their faces they look very similar. Yet, as Evans discovered, 
the animal on the left is a decoy cow, introduced by the wily 
hunters to entrap the bull. The Minoan artist, realizing that the 
body of the cow would be almost entirely hidden by that of 
the bull, had to find some means of indicating its sex. He did 
this by showing it with raised tail the normal reaction of a 
cow when sexually roused. It was this tiny detail which gave 
Evans the clue. The three scenes on the cup became perfectly 
clear. The first (not visible in our picture) now shows the bull 
nosing the cow's tail. In the second (illustrated): 

. . . the bull's treacherous companion [writes Evans], engages him in 
amorous converse, of which her raised tail shows the sexual reaction. 
The extraordinary human expressiveness of the two heads as they turn 
to each other is very characteristic of the Minoan artistic spirit. 

In the third scene (out of sight): 

. . . the herdsman takes advantage of his dalliance to lasso the mighty 
beast by the hind leg. The bull is seen with head raised, bellowing 
with impotent rage. 

These reliefs had been known to archaeologists for more 
than twenty years before Evans pointed out their true meaning. 

For season after season he continued his patient excavation, 
clearing, and, where necessary, reconstituting the Palace of 
Knossos. Unreflecting visitors to Knossos have sometimes criti- 


cized Evans for his "reinforced concrete restoration." Such 
criticisms are unintelligent; he had no alternative. 

The upper stories [he wrote], of which, in the Domestic Quarter, 
three successive stages were encountered had not, as in the parallel 
case of other ancient buildings, been supported by solid pieces of 
masonry or brickwork, or by stone columns. They had been held up in 
a principal degree by a timber framework the huge posts of which, 
together with the shafts of the columns, were either supplied by the 
cypress forests, then existing in the neighbouring glens, or by similar 
material imported from over sea. The reduction, either by chemical 
powers or by actual burning, of these wooden supports had thus left 
vast voids in the interspaces. The upper floors had indeed, in a manner 
that sometimes seemed almost miraculous, held approximately at their 
levels by the rubble formation that had insinuated itself below due 
largely to the falling of bricks of unburned cky partly dissolved 
from the upper walls. 

At the same time, whenever this intrusive material was removed 
there was nothing to prevent the remains of the upper fabric from 
crashing down to a lower level. 

First Evans tried wooden beams and posts, but they tended 
to rot rapidly; then pieces of masonry and shafts and capitals 
cut laboriously from stone, while brickwork arches and girders 
supported the upper pavements; but this was not satisfactory 
and cost too much even for Evans. Finally he decided to use 
reinforced concrete, which is very strong, looks well, and can be 
erected rapidly. 

The cost of excavation and restoration became greater 
every year, but Evans was determined that die Palace should 
be presented to the world in a form that not only the archaeol- 
ogist could appreciate, but so that even the least imaginative 
lay visitor could feel and respond to its wonder. In this he 
succeeded beyond measure. But physical restoration of walls, 
floors, columns, porticoes, satisfied only a part of Evans's nature. 
It was more difficult, and therefore more attractive, to discover 
the moral and spiritual bases of the Minoan civilization. What 
had this ancient people believed, hoped, feared? Why this ap- 
parent insistence on the propitiation of the earth? Why the cult 
of the snake emblem of the earth? Why the mysterious "lustral 
areas" the steps leading down into the earth? 


Further evidence of mysterious religious practices came 
to light also linked with earth worship. At Knossos, Phaestos 
and elsewhere in Crete the archaeologists came upon subterran- 
ean crypts dark underground chambers, the central feature of 
which was always a heavy stone pillar. Sometimes these crypts 
lay beneath surface buildings, but generally speaking, the central 
pillar was far more substantial than was needed to support the 
superstructure. Sometimes there was no superincumbent build- 
ing, but the pillar was still as massive, and often inscribed with 
the sign of the double axe. In some cases there would be a drain 
near the pillar presumably to take the blood of sacrifice. Evans 
called these chambers ''Pillar crypts." 

When Evans was able to date more accurately the successive 
strata under the mound of Kcphala, he noticed that although 
Knossos had been almost continuously occupied since the New 
Stone Age (circa 4000 B.C. to 3000 B.C.) until about 1100 B.C., 
there had been breaks in the chain of development marks of 
catastrophe in the form of broken walls and charred timbers. 
Three especially severe disasters seemed to have occurred : round 
about 1700 B.C., between the end of the Middle Minoan period 
and the beginning of Late Minoan, and again in about 1400 B.C.; 
and there were signs of others. These could have been caused 
by foreign attack, by local insurrection or by civil war. Or, 
thought Arthur Evans, could they have been caused by earth- 

He had pondered upon this possibility for some time. He 
knew that Crete lay in a seismic area, and he consulted the 
medieval and modern history of the island to see if the shocks 
appeared to follow a definite cycle. He found that six especially 
destructive earthquakes had taken place in Crete in six and a 
half centuries. "That space of time," he wrote, "almost exactly 
corresponds with the duration of the great Minoan Palace into 
its successive phases, and we are almost bound to infer that the 
same natural forces must largely account for the signs of ruin 
that here mark successive stages of the building." 

Here, perhaps, lay the answer to the mystery of those 
Tbstral areas" flights of steps leading into the earth itself 
perhaps they had been used for some ceremony of earth propitia- 

During his later excavations Evans had a curious and 


slightly sinister experience, which strengthened his belief in the 
"earthquake" theory. He had been digging outside the Palace 
wall on the southeastern side, when his workmen *. . . struck the 
corner of a small house ... of the Third Middle Minoan period 
. . . this little house had been ruined by huge blocks hurled 
some of them over twenty feet by what could have been no 
less than a violent earthquake shock. . . . The house was never 
rebuilt but, like another in the adjoining area west, was filled 
with materials derived from the contemporary ruin.'* 

The little house appeared to have belonged to an artisan 
a lamp maker and a number of unfinished lamps were found 
among the ruins. Near this "House of the Fallen Blocks" was 
another, which seems to have been damaged at the same time, 
and here the excavators made a significant discovery. In the 
northwest and southeast corners of the southern basement had 
been set the heads of ". . . two large oxen of the urus breed, the 
horn-cores of one of which were over a foot in girth at the 
base. . . ." These sacrificial relics, which were carefully placed 
near tripod altars, could, said Evans, have only one significance. 
"The methodical filling in of the building and its final relinquish- 
mcnt as a scene of human habitation had been preceded by a 
solemn expiatory offering to the Powers below." 

Bulls had been sacrificed to the Earth God. As they examined 
the remains, the excavators found it easy to imagine the solemn 
warning which may have been issued by the Minoan priest, forty- 
eight hundred years ago, against all who might attempt to undo 
his work. 

Then, says Evans, just as the workmen completed the task 
of clearing this "House of Sacrifice" at 12.15 p.m. on April 20, 
1922, "a short, sharp shock, sufficient to throw one of my men 
backwards, accompanied by a deep rumbling sound, was expe- 
rienced on the site, and throughout the region. . . ." 

And he remembered that in the Iliad, Book Twenty, Homer 
had written: 

In Bulls does the Earth-shaker delight. 

It was two in the morning. 

The fire had sunk into a mass of red embers. I felt cold and 
cramped. Gathering together my pile of books, I placed them 


carefully on the table, hoping I would remember to return 
them to the library in the morning. Somehow there seemed no 
point in carrying them back along that shadowy corridor tonight 
I switched off the light, and, as I closed the door before de- 
scending the creaking stairs to my basement bedroom, saw, 
silhouetted against the dying glow of the fire, the profile of the 
Minoan bull. . . . 



EABLY next day, after Manoli had served breakfast in the austere 
dining room, I strolled along the winding path past Hadrian and 
the bougainvillaeas, scrambled down a slope and so reached the 
narrow lane which leads to the Palace. It was a way which Sir 
Arthur must have used thousands of times, and I sensed his un- 
seen presence, swinging the formidable Prodger, and acknowl- 
edging the respectful salutes of the villagers. 

Knossos lies in a hollow, half hidden by trees, with vineyards 
climbing the lower slopes of the gentle hills which enclose it on 
east, west and south. Only the northern side, the way to the sea, 
lies open. And though the Palace stands on a mound, it is a 
mound largely of its own making, the debris of more than two 
thousand years' occupation. 

Piet de Jong met me at the gatekeeper's lodge. We passed 
through the screen of cypresses and, as we came out into the 
sunlight, I saw, for the first time, the Palace of Minos. Even 
then it did not reveal itself all at once. A wall of finely cut 
masonry hid the view immediately ahead, but to the right, I saw 
the spacious northwest courtyard and the northwest entrance to 
the Palace. Over the threshold, past low walls and carefully kept 
pavements, a turn to the left, and I was in the reconstructed frag- 
ment of the columned Propylaeum Hall. It was here that Evans 
had found the Cup-bearer fresco, the first portrait of a Minoan 
to be discovered. The original pieces now hang in the Herakleion 
Museum, but here, on the brightly sunlit wall, hung one of Gil- 
Ii6ron's brilliant copies. For a split second the purist in me pro- 
tested against all this reproduction, but was instantly silenced. 

For it is no use comparing a Cretan Palace with the great 
monuments of Egypt, where the dry air has preserved walls and 
columns and architraves in their original state for three thousand 
years. Though hot and dry in summer, Crete has torrential winter 



rains, and next to human destroyers, damp is probably the great- 
est enemy of ancient monuments. Its destructiveness is all the 
greater when, as at Knossos, much timber was used in the con- 
struction. The walls, especially in the earlier Palaces, were timber- 
framed, and the columns, which supported roofs, porches and 
stairways were all of timber. When the Palace was sacked (or set 
on fire by an earthquake it is not decided), the wooden pillars 
and framing burned, and such timber as escaped the fire has long 
since rotted away under the damp earth. 

The walls collapsed, the roofs fell, so that the only possible 
way in which Evans and his colleagues could show the original 
appearance of the Palace was by a painstaking reconstruction of 
typical fragments, such as the Propylaeum Hall and the North 
Portico (see Plate 25). Perhaps, in his enthusiasm, Evans may 
have gone a little too far that is a matter of opinion but on 
large parts of the site he had only two alternatives to reconsti- 
tute or leave a rubbish heap. None the less, as de Jong pointed out 
to me, every fragment of original work which could be recovered 
was kept, and an impressive proportion of the Knossian Palace, 
especially in the Domestic Quarter, is original Minoan masonry, 
untouched for thirty centuries. 

Piet showed me the system Evans had adopted to denote 
the original construction of the Palace in his careful reconstruc- 

"In a decayed wall," he said, "we would often find evidences 
of the original stone 'chases' [grooves] into which the timber 
framework was fitted. When we rebuilt the wall we replaced 
the rotted wood with concrete, and painted it pale buff, to indi- 
cate wood. The rest of the wall we rebuilt as far as possible with 
the original stone blocks." 

Along the wall the two Cup-bearers * marched in slow, 
stately procession; slim-waisted, broad-shouldered, with proud, 
aristocratic features and curling black hair (see Plate 23). Now 
at last I began to sense the strangeness of Knossos. We were only 
a few hundred miles from Egypt, with which the Minoans had 
been in contact for two thousand years. Yet there was nothing 
Egyptian in the faces or dress of these people. I thought of the 
wall paintings I had seen in the tombs of Luxor, those solemn, 

1 Originally there was a long procession of these youths. 


stiff, hieratic figures in their robes of gauffered linen; these 
Minoans were quite different. They looked more European than 
Asiatic though Evans believed they came originally from Asia. 
Yet they were not like the classical Greeks. Who were they? 
Where had they come from? How tantalizing of them to have 
left us no history! 

But de Jong, the practical architect, was speaking again. 

"People often ask why they made their columns with a 
downward taper," he said. "Do you know?" 

"No. Was there any special reason?" 

"It's never been properly settled. I think the most feasible 
theory is that, as the columns were made from tree trunks, they 
placed them root upwards, with the broadest part of the trunk 
at the top, to prevent the trees sprouting again. Or it may have 
been just to leave more space at the bottom. These columns here," 
he added, slapping the big rust-colored pillars of the Propylaeum, 
"are concrete, of course. But we know they stood here, because 
we found the column bases, and the capitals lying nearby." 

I asked him how he ascertained the height and proportion 
of the columns, but this, he assured me, was only a matter of 
careful surveying and comparison with architectural remains 
found on other parts of the site. Sometimes impressions of the 
columns remained in the earth, though the wood had rotted 

"You know," said Pict, "one of Sir Arthur's greatest gifts was 
his capacity for visualizing. He could tell, just by looking at a 
few broken stones, a fallen column and a few bits of fresco, 
exactly how the whole room or building originally looked. And 
he'd get most impatient if his architect couldn't see it just as 
quickly. Yet when the architect had surveyed and measured the 
site, and studied all the architectural evidence, the fact is that 
Sir Arthur was nearly always right." 

Among the valuable evidence was that of the painted 
frescoes, which often depicted buildings with the typical Minoan 
tapered column. These were a great help when making recon- 
structions. Some of the most useful information on the shape and 
appearance of Minoan houses was obtained from representations 
in the form of small faience plaques only a few inches square. 

"But the coloring" I exclaimed. "The place must have 


glowed with color. How did you know, for instance, that the 
columns were a russet, and that their capitals were sometimes 
blue, sometimes black?" 

"From the frescoes," he replied, as we turned to the left into 
the great gallery leading to the magazines. "You'll see. But first 
let me show you something/' He led the way into a broad, stone- 
paved corridor from which opened numerous long, narrow rooms, 
the walls standing to a height of six feet or more and in some 
cases roofed over. "Now very little of this has been recon- 
structed," he said. "What you see now is practically all Minoan. 
We just put back the roof." 

We were in the storerooms of King Minos; the repository of 
his wealth. The rooms were nearly all full of great earthenware 
jars, some more than six feet high; originally they had contained 
oil, grain, dried fish, beans, olives; for in the days of the Minoan 
thalassocracy, wealth was not only in gold and precious things. 
Let into the floor of the rooms were narrow stone-lined cysts or 
chambers, originally hidden under stone slabs (see Plate 22). 

"These," said de Jong, "were a kind of safe deposit; at one 
time in the history of the Palace they were used for storing pre- 
cious things the kind of things Schliemann found in the shaft 
graves of Mycenae. In fact, Evans suggested that the Mycenaean 
treasures may actually have rested here at one time. But he found 
hardly anything when he uncovered these cysts in 1900 just a 
few fragments of gold to show what had been there once. They 
were all thoroughly plundered when the Palace was sacked and 
burned. Look at the marks of the fire see?" And he pointed to 
the edge of the pit. 

There, unmistakably, on the northern edge, was the mark 
of black, unctuous smoke, almost certainly made by burning oil. 
Elsewhere I saw many other evidences of fire, and always the 
telltale stain showed that the smoke had been blown to the north. 

So a south wind was blowing when the great Palace fell. . . . 

As I followed the Curator up a flight of broad steps to the 
Central Court, a curious, faint uneasiness began to mingle 
with my delight and wonder. I am not a superstitious man; I 
have no belief in the supernatural; and my journalistic experience 
has trained me to observe and report facts. But I have to admit 


that, in spite of the keen spring air, the sunshine, and my own 
pleasure in visiting Knossos, the atmosphere of the Palace de- 
pressed me. It was there is no other word for it sinister. 

But now, in the spacious Central Court, I was able to drink 
in the full splendor of Knossos. Standing in the center and look- 
ing north towards the sea, I could see on my left the official 
quarters of the Palace, from which Crete had been administered 
in the days of Knossian supremacy. Though only the lower storey 
of these ruined buildings remained, still they stirred the mind; 
and above them storey upon storey had once stood. These had 
been rooms of state approached by flights of broad, shallow steps 
flanked by columns, and lit by a system of light wells (as in 
modern hotels and office blocks) which allowed a soft indirect 
light to penetrate while avoiding the direct rays of the hot sum- 
mer sun, or the icy winter winds ( see Plate 26 ) . Though most of 
these rooms have vanished, their character is known through the 
almost miraculous preservation of the Domestic Apartments on 
the eastern side of the Great Court, to which de Jong now led 

To reach them we had to descend the famous Grand Stair- 
case, itself the greatest monument of Knossos; a monument not 
only to the Minoans, but, let it be added, to the extraordinary skill 
of Christian Doll, the architect who preserved it, We crossed the 
Court and began the descent. The steps are of gypsum, a smooth, 
white, crystalline stone, much used by the Minoans for the 
interiors of their buildings. Originally there were five flights, but 
the two upper storeys have left only slight indications. But as 
we went lower, I walked down three full flights which must have 
looked exactly the same to the Minoan courtiers and ladies as 
they followed in the train of the Priest King more than thirty-six 
hundred years ago. On my left, as I descended, was the Minoan 
wall, originally covered with gay frescoes in the now-familiar 
tones of pale blue and russet. On the right was a low balustrade 
overlooking a central wall which gave light to the stairway. Ris- 
ing from the balustrade were stout Minoan columns of the 
familiar downward-tapering form, supporting the landings above. 
The column bases, with their sockets, were original; and when 
Evans, Christian Doll and the rest aided by Greek miners 


tunnelled into these depths some fifty years ago, they found the 
carbonized stumps of the original wooden columns still remaining 
in their bases. The present columns, of identical shape to the 
originals, are of concrete masked with stucco. I recalled Evans's 
description of how he and his staff dealt with a huge wall which 
threatened to topple and destroy all that was left of this master- 
piece of the Minoan master architect (could his name have been 
Daedalus ...?). 

The middle staircase wall above the first flight was found to have 
a dangerous list outwards involving a continual risk to the remains of 
the whole fabric. , . . Under the superintendence of our trusty over- 
seer Gregorios Antoniou, the wall was first harnessed and secured by 
planks and ropes; its base was then cut into, along its whole length 
on either side; wedge-shaped stones and cement were held in readiness 
for insertion in the outer slit, and sixty men on the terrace above were 
then set to pull the ropes secured to the casing. The mighty mass 
was thus set in motion, and righted itself against the solid wooden 
framework prepared as a stop. This was then removed, and the whole 
structure refixed in its upright position. By these various means it 
has been possible to maintain the staircase and balustrade at their 
original levels, and thus restore to the modern world the structural 
aspects of this great work which dates back some 3,600 years. . . . 
(See Plate 29.) 

All the expense of this tremendous work was borne by the 
Evans fortune. Evans was a rich man, admittedly, but it is worth 
noting en passant that not all men of wealth spend it on yachts 
and race horses. And, conversely, can anyone even the most 
passionate advocate of state control imagine a modern "pro- 
gressive" Government spending a quarter of a million pounds 
on preserving an ancient monument even if it was vital to the 
history of our civilization? If Knossos had been discovered today, 
Evans, presumably, would have had to apply for a grant from 
the impoverished British Council. . . . 

The struggle to preserve the Grand Staircase was truly 
dramatic. It had all the classical elements of conflict between 
the archaeologists on one hand, and Time and Decay on the 
other. Here is part of Evans's own account from The Palace of 


. . . The hewing away of the clay concretions and the extraction 
of the various rubble and earthy materials of the intervening spaces 
left a void between the upper and lower spaces that threatened the 
collapse of the whole. The carbonized posts and beams and shafts, al- 
though their form and measurement could be often observed, were 
splintered up and exposed and, of course, could afford no support. The 
recourse to mine props and miscellaneous timbering was almost tem- 
porary and at times so insufficient that some dangerous falls occurred. 

To relax our efforts meant that the remains of the Upper Storeys 
would have crashed down on those below, and the result would have 
been an indistinguishable heap of ruins. The only alternative was to 
endeavour to re-support the upper structures in some permanent man- 
ner. In the early days of the excavation the Architect, Mr. Christian 
Doll, who manfully grappled with his Atlantean task, had perforce 
largely to rely on iron girders, brought from England at great expense, 
and these were partly masked with cement. . . . Even then, wood, 
which it was hard to obtain properly seasoned, was allowed to play a 
part in these reconstructions. . . . 

The cypress trunks and beams that had supported such masses of 
masonry in the old work were of course no longer obtainable, but we 
had to leurn that even the pinewood of Tyrol, imported through 
Trieste . . . could be reduced to rottenness and powder in a few 
years by the violent extremes of the Cretan climate. . . . 

It was not until reinforced concrete with its interlacing 
web of steel wires was introduced in the twenties, that Evans 
found an answer to his problem how to provide enduring sup- 
port for heavy masses of masonry, and how to roof large spaces 
cheaply and strongly. So the twentieth century A.D. came to the 
aid of the twentieth century B.C. Daedalus, one feels, would have 

At the foot of the Grand Staircase we entered a short cor- 
ridor leading to a suite of splendid rooms, and here I knew I 
was surrounded by genuine Minoan walls. It was the first time 
I had stood within a king s palace belonging to a period con- 
temporary with the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Dynasties of the 
Egyptian Pharaohs (1600-1350 B.C.), and the effect was over- 
whelming. In Egypt the royal palaces were usually temporary 
structures made of sun-dried bricks, of which only foundations 
remain. There only temples and tombs were built for eternity; 
how paltry are the remains even of the Palace of the magnificent 


Amenophis III at Medinet Habou, compared with the tombs of 
Amenophis and his descendants in the Royal Valley at Luxor. 
But at Knossos one walks through rooms which once heard the 
seductive rustic of the Minoan ladies' flounced skirts, and echoed 
to the murmur of gossip and music. There, in his high-backed 
throne under the wall of shields, sits Minos himself ... in that 
far corner a group of elegant young men arc gambling; between 
them lies the inlaid gaming board which Evans found nearby. 
And not far away Minoan ladies, jewels glittering on their ivory 
breasts, are discussing fashion, destroying the reputations of ab- 
sent friends, and perhaps recalling the amazing performance of 
that young Athenian in the arena on the previous day. What was 
the barbarian's name . . . Theseus? "Did you notice how the 
Princess looked at him? But it was obvious, my dear, he just had 
to win . . . " 

Then Pict broke into my fantasy. "Sir Arthur called this room 
the Hall of the Double Axes/' he said. "Come over here and 111 
show you something." 

There was a row of columns dividing the Hall of the Double 
Axes from the adjoining room. But let into these columns were 
recesses which proved that at one time folding doors had existed 
which in winter would be kept closed for warmth. In summer, 
however, the doors could be neatly folded back into the recesses 
in the columns, allowing a free flow of cool air. 

Then the Curator pointed to a low plinth on the northern 
wall of the Hall. "We think there was a throne here," he said, 
"just like the one in the Room of the Throne on the west side 
of the Court I'll show you that later. But that had some religious 
significance, while these were purely the private apartments of 
the Royal Family. You see Sir Arthur put in a wooden replica 
of the throne to replace the one that's disappeared." 

On each side of the throne hung a great figure-eight shield, 
full-sized, big enough to have covered the body of a Minoan 
warrior. Behind them, on the stucco wall, was a painted spiral 
band. I had first seen this curious body shield, so like that de- 
scribed in the Iliad, on the Mycenaean daggers which Schliemann 
had found in the shaft graves, and on the tiny bead seals which 
Evans had reproduced in his Palace of Minos. Now here were 
two of them, hung on the wall of one of the principal rooms of 


the Palace of Minos itself, more than one thousand years older 
than Homer. 

"They're not the original shields, of course/' said de Jong, 
"but Evans found that in the rooms which once existed above 
the Hall of the Colonnades there had been shaped shields painted 
on the walls, connected by a spiraliform band like a dado. Well, 
here, in the Hall of the Double Axes, there was the dado all right 
but no shields, Sir Arthur reckoned that instead of painted 
shields there may have been real shields hanging on the wall as 
a decoration. So he told Gillieron to make accurate painted 
copies, and hang them on the wall on each side of the Throne. 
And there they are" ( see Plate 40 ) . 

Then he led me through a short, twisting corridor into the 
most private apartments of the Palace, which Evans, sensing a 
certain femininity in the surviving decoration, named "The 
Queen's Megaron." Here all was lightness and grace. There were 
low seats around the walls, which were bright with gay frescoes 
of natural scenes. Dark blue dolphins sported on an eggshell-blue 
ground; there were starfish, and spiky "sea urchins" or "sea 
eggs" realistically drawn, yet all conforming to the over-all 
decorative pattern. One wall opened on to a columned light well 
from which a soft illumination filled the interior (see Plate 31). 
On the other side a doorway led to a further suite of smaller 
rooms, accessible from the main salon, but not from outside. Here 
was a little bathroom, with an earthenware bath shaped almost 
exactly like its modern descendant. The bath had evidently been 
filled by hand presumably by a handmaiden but nearby was 
a hole in the pavement through which the waste water could be 
poured into the main drain. 

An adjoining room, smaller than the bathroom, had un- 
doubtedly been a W.C. In Evans's words: 

On the face of a gypsum slab to the right is a groove for a seat 
about 57 cm. from the floor. Outside the doorway of the latrine is a 
flag [stone] sloped towards a semicircular hole, forming a sink, and 
from this opens a small duct leading to the main drain. The aperture 
leading to the main drain, partly masked by ^ curious projection, de- 
viates from the centre of the seat, thus leaving room on the right for 
some vessel used for flushing the basin. As an anticipation of scientific 


methods of sanitation, the system of which we have here the record 
has been attained by few nations even at the present day. 

It is typical of our technological age that, for most lay visitors 
to the Knossian Palace, none of its aesthetic treasures make such 
a profound appeal as this thirty-six-hundred-year-old latrine. In- 
deed, for anyone to whom sanitation and civilization are synony- 
mous, Knossos is irresistible. It is a Plumber's Paradise. Great 
stone channels led the water from the roof to underground drains, 
and these shafts, says Evans, were themselves ventilated by air 
shafts and made accessible by manholes: 

... so roomy that my Cretan workmen spent whole days in them 
without inconvenience. The elaborate drainage system of the Palace 
and the connected sanitary arrangements excite the wonder of all 
beholders. The terra-cotta pipes, with their scientifically-shaped sec- 
tions, nicely interlocked, which date from the earliest days of the 
building, are quite up to modern standards. . . . The slightly taper- 
ing form of the sections of which the terra-cotta pipes were composed 
. . . were admirably designed to impart a shooting motion to the 
flow of water so as to prevent the accumulation of sediment. . . . 

But the most remarkable example of Minoan hydraulic 
engineering is on the Northeast Bastion, to which de Jong took 
me after we had reclimbed the Grand Staircase. Here is a noble 
flight of steps leading from the northeast angle of the central 
court to the lower ground near the river. These steps were in the 
open air, and a channel had been cut at the side of each flight to 
carry away rainwater. That in itself did not seem very extraor- 
dinary, until de Jong showed me the scientific construction of 
these channels. Each flight of steps (which were quite steep) 
was at right angles to the next, and the problem of the Minoan 
engineers was to get the water round the corners without its 
overflowing onto the landings. If the water ducts at the sides had 
been mere flat-bottomed slopes, the rainwater would have rushed 
down them at such velocity that inevitably it would have over- 
flowed at the first corner. 

The trick was to slow down its speed; and this was done 
most cunningly by making the bottom of the water channels 
in a series of parabolic curves. The curves themselves almost 


exactly agree with the natural parabolas that the water falling 
down a slope at such an angle would make. Therefore the water 
reached the bottom of each flight at about half the speed it would 
have attained had it poured down the slope in a straight line 
instead of in a series of jumps. "Nothing," writes Evans, "in the 
whole building gives such an impression of the result of long 
generations of intelligent experience on the part of the Minoan 
engineers as the parabolic curves of the channels." 

Nor was this all. A series of catch pits collected the sediment 
on its downward course, so that when the water reached the 
bottom of the steps it was still pure and fit for washing purposes. 
And Evans adds, with one of those charming Homeric touches 
of which he was so fond, "the special fitness of rainwater for 
washing linen warrants the conjecture that the tank was used 
for this purpose, and Minoan Nausikaas 2 may have made their 
way here from the Palace halls above." 

This northeast quarter of the Palace seems to have contained 
workshops for the artisans. In one of them Piet showed me a 
block of puq->le Spartan basalt, half sawn through. There it lay 
on the floor, just as the workman had left it. Why had he left his 
work unfinished? Again, I felt that slight sense of unease which 
I first noticed when I saw the marks of fire in the great magazines. 
We walked across the court again to the west side, where in a 
gallery above the Room of the Throne were hung some of Gil- 
Heron's brilliant copies of the frescoes I had come so far to see. 
There they were the fresco of the bull leapers, the fresco of the 
grandstand with the chattering ladies, the products of a civiliza- 
tion which, sixteen hundred years before Christ, had already 
reached and passed its prime; was, in fact, decadent. All the 
charm, the intelligence, the jaded sophistication of a rich, de- 
clining culture were present in those delicate paintings. But 
there was something else, too, something which had haunted me 
since I entered the Palace, a sense of doom, a smell of death. 

Evans believed that an earthquake had brought about the 
final destruction of Knossos. Pendlebury, a younger scholar, be- 
lieved that it was sacked, probably by a force from the mainland 

* Nausikaa, the daughter of King Alcinous of Phaecia, was surprised by 
Odysseus when she and her maidens were playing by the seashore after wash- 
ing the family linen. 


of Greece. I believe that Pendlebury was right, I feel that the 
Minoan culture, as represented in the Knossian frescoes, had 
passed its apogee before 1400, had overripened and become 
rotten; and that when the invaders came, whoever they were 
probably Homer's "bronze-clad Achaeans" they only hastened 
an end which was inevitable. 

But the end must have been very terrible on that spring day, 
fourteen hundred years before Christ, when the wind was blow- 
ing strongly from the south . . . even now something of the 
terror lingers in marks of fire, in blackened walls and floors, 
fragments of charred timber grim evidence of the fatal day 
when the raiders came. One draws breath with wonder at the 
delicate beauty of the wall paintings; at the slim, effeminate, 
dark-skinned youths with their narrow waists and black, curling 
hair; at the groups of chattering, elegant women with their pale 
ivory skins, jewelled necklaces and hooped and flounced skirts. 
And then one thinks of the last day the women running scream- 
ing through the frescoed corridors, the desperate fighting in 
doorways and staircases, the master craftsman disturbed at his 
work, leaving one stone jar half finished the warrior lying dead 
across his great body shield the smell of smoke, the sound of 
crashing timbers, the splash of blood on the white gypsum pave- 
ment. . . . 

"Come and have a look at the Throne Room," said Piet. 

The Room of the Throne is die most dramatic room in 
Knossos, and I was glad de Jong had left it to the last. We entered 
the low-ceilinged outer chamber, opened a wooden gate and 
were in the Throne Room itself. It was not very large, of rec- 
tangular shape, the broadest side being on the right. On this 
long, right-hand wall crouched two magnificent painted griffins 
lionlike creatures with the heads of birds, in the now-familiar 
russet on a pale blue ground. Between the guardian griffins rose 
the Throne of Minos himself, still in its original place, with its 
high "wavy-edged" back and anatomically shaped seat. On each 
side of the Throne, and extending to the flanking walls, were low 
stone benches. The impression of a "cathedral chapter house" 
as suggested by Evans was very strong (see Plate 21). 

In front of the Throne, to the left of the door, broad steps 
led down to one of those mysterious pits the "lustral areas" or 


"ritual impluvia" which Evans believed had been used in con- 
nection with some ceremony of anointing. In the antechamber 
outside still stood stone and earthenware jars which had been 
found on the site, an$ which seem to have been used in this 
ceremony. Other smaller rooms opened out of the Throne Room. 
One of them seems to have been a kitchen, and it may well have 
happened that on certain occasions the Priest King retired to 
this suite of chambers and isolated himself from the rest of the 
community for an extended period perhaps days, perhaps 

It was all so baffling. If only the Minoans had left written 
records which we could understand! 

"Well," said Piet, "that's about all in the Palace itself, apart 
from the North Portico and the Theatral Area, which we can see 
this afternoon. Ill have to get back to the Tavcrna, but you've no 
need to hurry if you want to stay. But lock the door after you 
when you go." 

As the Curator's footsteps died away, I sat on the oldest 
throne in Europe. It was extremely comfortable. There was no 
sound outside. In front of me the dim light from the upper storey 
filtered down into the ritual pit, flanked by its tapering, russet- 
colored columns. Then I recalled a passage from a book which, 
next to The Palace of Minos, is probably the most authoritative 
and scholarly work yet written on the Minoan civilization: John 
Pendlebury's The ArcJiacology of Crete. 

Now there is a name [he wrote], which is always associated with 
the sack of Knossos, at least with the liberation of its subjects 
Theseus. Names have a habit of being remembered when the deeds 
with which they are associated are forgotten or garbled. ... It has 
already been suggested that the six youths and six maidens may have 
been the mainland quota for the bull-ring at Knossos. This is just the 
type of detail that would be remembered, the more so in that it may 
well have been the sentimental reason without which no purely com- 
mercial war can ever take place. No doubt the rape of Helen was a 
very good rallying cry when the Mycenaean Empire wished to break 
through to the Black Sea trade which Troy was keeping to herself. 

And, in the last decade of the fifteenth century on a spring day, 
when a strong south wind was blowing which carried the flames of 
the burning beams horizontally northward, Knossos fell. . . . 


. . . The final scene takes place in the most dramatic room ever 
excavated the Throne Room. It was found in a state of complete 
confusion. A great oil jar lay overturned in one corner, ritual vessels 
were in the act of being used when the disaster came. It looks as if 
the King had been hurried there to undergo, too late, some last cere- 
mony in the hopes of saving the people. Theseus and the Minotaur! 
Dare we believe that he wore the mask of the bull? 



IN the year 1911, at the age of sixty, Evans was knighted; an 
honor bestowed not only for his work in Crete, but for his over- 
all contribution to learning. Three years earlier he had resigned 
his Keepership of the Ashmolean, in order to devote all his 
time to Knossos; but by that time his triumph over the reaction- 
ary elements in the University was complete. At the time of 
Evans's resignation, the new Chancellor, Lord Curzon, had 
written to him, "Your real monument is the Ashmolean itself, 
now organized and equipped on a scale that renders it absolutely 
unrecognizable to the Oxonian of twenty-five years ago. . . ." At 
the same time Evans retained the honorary post of Visitor to the 
Ashmolean, which enabled him to keep an eye on its affairs, as 
he did to the end of his life, besides making generous gifts to it. 

During the 1914-18 war he kept a vigilant eye on those 
centers of learning which tend in wartime to be brusquely treated 
by the military authorities. Always in times of national emergency 
there are Jacks-in-office who take advantage of their brief author- 
ity to make stupid and arbitrary use of their powers. When such 
people crossed the path of Sir Arthur Evans, they usually got 

For example, in the early years of the war, the Air Board 
tried to requisition the British Museum, and began roughly 
moving the collections to make room for civil servants. This, to 
Sir Arthur, was the "breaking in of the jungles." In letter after 
letter to the great newspapers, in public speeches and in private 
conversation, he lashed the Philistines. 

In a notable speech he described the "surprise visit" of an 
Air Board official, followed by the Board's request to the Cabinet 
for permission to requisition the Museum as their headquarters. 



In the teeth of vigorous protest by the Trustees, "the order was 
actually given by the Cabinet," but "this monstrous proposal, 
'which both as Trustee of the Museum and President of the So- 
ciety of Antiquaries, I did something to expose, raised a general 
storm of indignation, not only among the accredited representa- 
tives of Art and the Historic Sciences, but throughout the Press." 

The order was withdrawn the Air Board suddenly discover- 
ing that "it did not need the building after all. . . .* 

But, in the meantime, much harm had been done. Galleries 
had been hurriedly cleared to make room for clerks. Evans spoke 
of "weeks of labour in the clearing out of three large galleries, 
to the final undoing of the work of a century and a half . . . 
entailed by the wanton caprice of a Government Department 
which, after having occasioned all this trouble and expense, came 
to the conclusion that they did not find the accommodation suit- 
able!" Where was all this to end? he demanded. 

. , . the treatment of the British Museum, the incalculable de- 
struction there of the results of generations of learned labour and 
classification, the commandeering for there is no other word of 
the University Press, show that those who control our Administration 
are inspired by a Philistine spirit for which we shall in vain seek a 
parallel among civilized Governments. Ruthless proscription, the re- 
sult of panic action, threatens at every turn the very sanctuaries of 
learning. Those who represent its interests are doubtless a very in- 
ferior race in the eyes of politicians. We are not concerned to dispute 
their verdict, but it is well to remind them that even the lowest tribes 
of savages have their reservations. . . . 

Some may smile cynically at this outburst, remembering the 
far more deadly attacks on the citadels of culture during and 
since the recent war: the wholesale destruction of museums, 
galleries and works of art; the persecution and murder of non- 
conforming artists and scholars in totalitarian countries; the post- 
war "witch hunt" in America. But I think such cynicism is mis- 
placed. Sir Arthur and his generation stood for absolute stand- 
ards. They could not imagine a lowering of those standards, and 
when the attempt was made, they fought bitterly. In the end 
they lost, but they, and not the Philistines, were right. We are 
the losers. 

In 1916, when a move was made to expel certain German 


Honorary Members from the Society of Antiquarians, Evans, in 
spite of the wave of hate which was sweeping the country, and in 
spite of his own revulsion against the barbarities being committed 
on sea and land, kept his head and spoke for reason and modera- 
tion. "The existence among German Honorary Fellows of savants 
belonging to that noble class of which the late Dr. Helbig stood 
forth as a conspicuous example should give us pause before we 
carry out any too sweeping measures. In spite of the Gospel of 
Hate, let it be said to their credit, the learned societies and 
academies of Germany, with inconsiderable exceptions, have re- 
frained from striking their English members from the rolls/' 
And he ended his address with the noble words: 

We cannot shirk the fact that tomorrow we shall be once more 
labourers in the same historic field. It is incumbent on us to do noth- 
ing which should shut the door to mutual intercourse in subjects like 
our own, which lie apart from the domain of human passions, in the 
silent avenues of the past. 

I put down the account of Evans's address, closed the old, 
faded pamphlet and replaced it on the shelves of the library in 
the Villa Ariadne. I felt depressed. These fine exhortations, this 
splendid, selfless endeavor, had they not all been futile? Another 
war had come and gone, and the sons of the men with whom 
Sir Arthur Evans had "laboured in a common field" of learning, 
had parachuted from the sky of Crete and themselves occupied 
the Villa Ariadne as a military headquarters. Admittedly, they 
had not harmed it seriously, nor the Palace. Only one tomb, at 
Isopata, has been destroyed by a German N.C.O. who, not real- 
izing what it was, had turned it into a gun emplacement (the 
punishment which his commanding officer afterwards ordered 
would have made even Sir Arthur feel sorry for the sergeant). 
The war had ended, and the Germans had handed back the Villa 
Ariadne almost intact, with every article of its original furniture, 
accompanied by an accurate inventory. So perhaps some civilized 
instincts remained, even during war. . . . Perhaps Evans and his 
German confreres had not labored entirely in vain. 

I had been at Knossos for nearly a week, living at the Villa 


Ariadne and making excursions into the surrounding country. 
I had seen the Palace many times, in early morning, in the late 
evening, even by moonlight. I had taken my notes and photo- 
graphs, and tomorrow I was to cross the mountain chain to reach 
the other great Palace of Phaestos, in the south. And on the fol- 
lowing day I had to fly to Athens, and so back to cold, misty Lon- 

As I put back Evans's Presidcntal Address to the British As- 
sociation, I noticed a group of notebooks with faded covers, rest- 
ing on a lower shelf. I picked out one at random; it was filled 
with pencilled diagrams of pottery and notes in a small, careful 
handwriting. The signature was "D. Mackenzie." . . . 

So these were Duncan Mackenzie's own notebooks; Macken- 
zie, the taciturn, talented Scotsman whom Evans had admired so 
much, and who had developed a unique system of dating pottery. 
I fingered the pages . . . tried to decipher the abbreviated sym- 
bols "" (Late Minoan, First Period, Second Subdivision) 
and so on. 

Poor Mackenzie had suffered long under a mental illness to 
which he eventually succumbed. Long before he had finally to 
leave Knossos, he had been subject to fits of depression and 
nervous irritability which Evans, quick-tempered himself, bore 
with extraordinary patience. When, after long years, news 
reached Sir Arthur of Mackenzie's death, he wrote, in his Palace 
of Minos, a tribute of extraordinary tenderness. 

His Highland loyalty never failed, and the simple surroundings of 
his earlier years gave him an inner understanding of the native work- 
men and a fellow feeling with them that was a real asset in the course 
of our spade-work. To them, though a master, he was ever a true 
comrade. The lively Cretan dances revived the "reels" of his youth. 
No wedding ceremony, no baptism, no wake was complete without 
the sanction of his presence, and as sponsor, godfather, or "best man," 
his services were in continual request. There still fall on my ear the 
tones of that "still small voice" as he proposed the toast of a happy 
pair with sly jocose allusions, fluently spoken in the Cretan dialect 
of modern Greek but not without a trace of the soft Gaelic accent. 

After the First World War, Evans had returned to Crete. 
Costs were higher, but he was a rich man; and, after re-engaging 
his Cretan workmen, he continued to excavate and restore the 


Palace of Knossos. Piet de Jong joined him in 1922 the third of 
Evans's resident architects. After the First World War de Jong 
had worked for Professor Wace at Mycenae. Evans had been so 
impressed by the architect's plans of the Mycenaean fortress that 
he had invited him to come to Knossos. 

In 1921 appeared the first volume of his long-awaited Palace 
of Minos of which further volumes were to appear at intervals 
during the next fourteen years. It was a monumental achieve- 
ment; four great books (Volumes 2 and 4 were so enormous that 
each had to be issued in two sections ) totalling more than 3,000 m 
pages, with more than 2,400 illustrations many of them in 
color. Most of it was written at Youlbury, his Berkshire home. 
How he worked is described by his half sister, Dr. Joan Evans: 

The library was big enough to take any number of bookcases on 
the floor, apart from the bookshelves that lined its walls. Here he could 
work at his great book classifying the material by the simple process 
of setting up a fresh trestle table for each fresh section, and moving 
from one to the other like a chess player engaged in multiple games. 
... In truth he needed space; his material was overwhelming; and 
he took advantage of none of the modern methods in dealing with it. 
He had neither secretary nor typewriter, and still used a quifi pen. 

Sir John Myres wrote of the work: "The difficulty of such a 
composition was exceptional, for new discoveries were being 
made throughout the forty-two years since Evans landed in Crete. 
But throughout its 3,000 pages the vast work reads like a saga; 
there is always the great design, within which each topic and 
digression takes its place." 

From this work almost unique among archaeological books 
in that it combines detailed scholarship with bursts of brilliant 
descriptive writing I have already quoted typical passages. I 
would like to add one more, because it strongly reveals Evans's 
poetic imagination. Here, in Volume 3, he is describing the re- 
constituted Grand Staircase: 

The Grand Staircase, as thus reconstituted, stands alone among 
ancient architectural remains, With its charred columns solidly re- 
stored in their pristine hues, surrounding in tiers its central wall, its 
balustrades rising, practically intact, one above the other, with its 
imposing fresco of the great Minoan shields on the back wall of its 


middle gallery, now replaced in replica, and its still well-preserved 
gypsum steps ascending to four landings, it revives, as no other part 
of the building, the remote past. It was, indeed, my own lot to experi- 
ence its strange power of imaginative suggestion, even at a time when 
the work of reconstitution had not attained its present completeness. 

During an attack of fever, having found, for the sake of better air, 
a temporary lodging in the room below the inspection tower that had 
been erected on the neighbouring edge of the Central Court, and 
tempted in the warm moonlight to look down the staircase well, the 
whole place seem to awake awhile to life and movement. Such was 
the force of the illusion that the Priest-King with his plumed crown, 
great ladies, tightly girdled, flounced and corseted, long-stoled priests, 
and after them a retinue of elegant and sinewy youths as if the Cup- 
bearer and his fellows had stepped down from the walls passed and 
repassed on the flights below. 

It was this quality of imagination which helped him to solve 
one of his baffling archaeological problems the significance of 
the mysterious "lustral areas," the subterranean "pillar crypts/' 
and even of the bull itself. For a long period he had suspected 
that these pits and crypts were associated with the propitiation of 
an earth deity, perhaps represented by the Minoan goddess her- 
self in her aspect of Lady of the Underworld. That the bull also 
entered into this worship he was certain; we have noticed the 
significance he attached to the two sacrificed oxen found in the 
House of the Fallen Blocks. But confirmation came in most 
dramatic form on a warm summer night in June, when Sir Arthur 
was resting in one of the basement bedrooms of the Villa Ariadne. 

My own mind . . . was full of past earthquakes and the fore- 
boding of a new convulsion when on June 26 ... at 9.45 in the 
evening of a calm, warm day, the shocks began. They caught me 
reading on my bed in a basement room of the headquarters house, and 
trusting to the exceptional strength of the fabric, I chose to see the 
earthquake through from within. Perhaps I had hardly realized the 
full awesomeness of the experience, though my confidence in the full 
strength of the building proved justified, since it did not suffer more 
than slight cracks. But it creaked and groaned, and rocked from side 
to side, as if the whole must collapse. Small objects were thrown 
about, and a pail, full of water, was nearly splashed empty. The 
movement, which recalled a ship in a storm, though of only a minute 
and a quarter's duration, already produced the same physical effect 


on me as a rough sea, A dull sound rose from the ground like the 
muffled roar of an angry bull [my italics]; our single bell rang, while 
through the open window came the more distant jangling of the 
chimes of Candia Cathedral, the belfry as well as the dome and cupo- 
las of which were badly damaged. As the quickly repeated shocks 
produced their cumulative effect the crashing of the roofs of the two 
small houses outside the garden gate made themselves audible, min- 
gled with women's shrieks and the cries of some small children, who, 
however, were happily rescued. . . . Meanwhile a mist of dust, lifted 
upwards by a sudden draught of air, rose sky high, so as almost en- 
tirely to eclipse the full moon, some house lights reflected on this dark 
bank giving the appearance of a conflagration wrapped round with 
smoke . . . 

The archaeological sequitur of this is very important. When, as in 
the great Palace of Knossos we find evidence of a series of overthrows, 
some of them on a scale that could hardly be the work of man, there 
seems real reason for tracing the cause to the same seismic agen- 
cies. . . . 

It is something to have heard with one's own ears the bellowing 
of the bull beneath the earth who, according to a primitive belief, 
tosses it on his horns. It was doubtless the constant need of protection 
against these petulant bursts of the infernal powers that explains the 
Minoan tendency to concentrate their worship on the chthonic aspect 
of their great goddess, wreathed with serpents as Lady of the Under- 
world. Certain structural features, moreover, peculiar to the old Cretan 
cult suggest the same explanation. Such were the "lustral basins'* 
which were not made for the purpose of holding water, but to which 
votaries descend, often by double flights of steps, for some ritual 
function that seems to connect itself with Mother Earth. Such, too, 
were the "pillar crypts," windowless, and only lit by artificial light, 
the massive central piers of which, associated with the sacred double 
axe, were provided with vats beside them to receive the blood of 

He was seventy-five when he had that experience. Some 
years before he had decided to give the Palace, the Villa Ariadne 
and its estate to the British School of Archaeology at Athens, ne- 
gotiations for which took several years. 1 Meanwhile, from the age 
of seventy onwards, he had taken enthusiastically to flying. Each 

1 In 1952 it was handed over to the Greek Government, rising costs and 
postwar stringencies having made it impossible for the British School to 
maintain it. 


year he would fly out to Athens, and if possible, get a seaplane to 

In his eightieth year he still enjoyed travel and delighted 
in its unexpected accidents. "When I tried to leave Piraeus 
for Crete by a Greek boat and was actually on board, a terrific 
snowstorm occurred, the worst known at Athens for fifty 
years, and the steamer stayed in port. ... I decided to spend 
a few more days in Athens, and to fly to Crete by the sea- 
plane. Incidentally this gave me an opportunity of stirring them 
up like bees at Athens by sending to the paper that Venizclos 
reads, a full account of the bad treatment that I and other 
travellers had experienced both on landing at Piraeus and on 
attempting to depart from it, at the hands of the 'Pirates of 
Piraeus' the boatmen and porters. . . ." 

Age had not brought softening of Sir Arthur's sharp temper 
and sharper wit. In Crete I was told a story about him which 
may well be true, though I had no means of checking it. Im- 
mediately after one of his arrivals in Crete, he was driving 
through Herakleion when he noticed to his indignation that 
workmen were demolishing one of the finest Venetian houses in 
the town. Ordering his chauffeur to stop, Sir Arthur stormed 
out, waving Prodger, and began belaboring the workmen, com- 
manding them to stop immediately, and demanding to see the 
Mayor. When that official appeared, Evans told him, in the 
strongest terms, that the building was a national monument of 
which the Cretans should be proud, and that to demolish it was 
an act of vandalism unworthy of a civilized people. The demoli- 
tion ceased. 

I cannot vouch for the facts of this anecdote, but it was 
told me in good faith, and I see no reason to disbelieve it. 

In his eightieth year he could still find energy to excavate. 
"Here I am with the Pendleburys and de Jong," he wrote, 
"starting some trial excavations which have already led to 
surprising results including where I looked for it! a large 
built tomb. Probably it has been entirely robbed however/' 

In 1932 he returned, after an absence of half a century, to 
his beloved Croatia and Dalmatia. He saw again the Casa 
San Lazzaro the house to which he had taken Margaret 
after their marriage and even found, in the neglected garden, 


flowers which they had planted. Visiting the jail in which he 
had been imprisoned, he remarked to the custodian, "I come 
here every fifty years." 

As the friends and colleagues of a lifetime died, one by 
one, the old scholar began to feel the loneliness and isolation 
which is the penalty of all those who long survive their own 
generation. There is a grave, dignified sadness in the Intro- 
duction to the fourth and last volume of his great book, in 
which he salutes his departed friends and fellow-scholars. 
After his tribute to Duncan Mackenzie, already quoted, he goes 

Apart from this sad stroke . . . the passage of the years itself 
has lately taken an untimely toll- even while this present Volume was 
in hand of those whom I could most look to for encouragement and 
advice. . . . Already, when this Volume was well advanced, A. H. 
Sayce was suddenly taken from us. ... Much travelled scholar and 
first hand student of the monuments of Egypt and the East ... it 
had been owing to his interpretative genius that the first real light 
was thrown on the Hittite problem, and the revelations of Minoan 
Crete nearly concerned him. . . . With him, too, H. R. Hall, most 
learned and serviceable guide, beyond the Aegean shores to Egypt 
and the Ancient East, has gone before his time. Gone too, in the full- 
ness of his years, is Friedrich von Buhn, the revered German "old 
master." . . * 

His warmest tribute was reserved for his old friend, Pro- 
fessor Frederico Halbherr, the Italian archaeologist who "was 
first in the field, the Patriarch of Cretan excavation," and who, 
through his seasoned knowledge of local conditions, had helped 
Evans to make his preliminary exploration of the island in times 
of difficulty and danger, and paved the way for the excavations 
at Knossos. 

His smile, his kindly manners won all hearts, and his memory still 
lives among the Cretan villagers. The "net" under which he slept se- 
cure at night, and his coal-black Arab steed that climbed rocks "like a 
wild goat" and on which be could gallop over the Turkish road 
from Phaestos to Candia in little over five hours, have become almost 
legendary. . . . 


The Introduction reads like a roll call of the dead, and 
one wonders if Evans realized, as he recorded the deaths 
of his fellow-scholars, that he was also recording the end of 
an epoch. Leisurely scholarship supported by private wealth, 
the disinterested pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, amicable 
relationships between scholars of varied nationalities the liberal 
intellectual atmosphere in which he had been reared as a child, 
which he accepted like the air he breathed, and had defended 
in his wartime speeches did he recognize that these precious 
things were soon to be swamped by a new fanatic intolerance 
worse than any he had known in the First World War? 

He did not survive the Second World War, though he lived 
through the first two bitter years the fall of France, the invasion 
of Greece and Crete, the occupation of Yugoslavia, all lands 
which Evans knew and loved. In London, in 1941, he visited the 
British Museum burned and blasted by enemy attack. He called 
at the offices of the Hellenic Society to inquire about its members 
who had been left in Greece and Crete. One member at least, 
John Pendlebury, Curator of Knossos, the young scholar whom 
Evans had admired not only for his scholarship but for the touch 
of knight-errantry in his make-up, had died gallantly fighting 
alongside the Cretan Resistance. 

His health had begun to fail two years before, and now he 
spent most of his time in his study at Youlbury, though he 
still came sometimes to the Ashmolean Museum. On his ninetieth 
birthday, shortly after having undergone a serious operation, he 
received in his library at Youlbury a deputation of his friends 
who brought him a beautiful scroll from the President and 
Council of the Hellenic Society, recalling ". . . with gratitude 
and admiration his exceptional contributions to learning,'* and 
". . . his lifelong and strenuous devotion to the cause of 
freedom in thought and in action." 

"On his knees," wrote Sir John Myres, 'lay a well-used 
Ordnance map showing his Roman road [Evans had traced 
it on his estate at Youlbury and had become interested in this 
fragment of local antiquity]; ... in reply to a question he 
showed the fair copy of his account of it, and said brightly 
It is finished; it will go to Oxoniensia.' It was his last contri- 
bution to learning. Three days later he was dead." 


Life, it has often been observed, always falls short of Art. 
If this had been a novel, Evans would not have lived to hear 
the hum of bombers over Europe's ancient cities; to know 
that the Villa Ariadne was a German military headquarters; 
that his beloved Balkan countries were once again a battle- 
ground of the Great Powers; and that civilized standards of 
conduct which used to be observed, even between nations at 
war, had been abandoned in a brutal struggle for survival. 
Instead, he would have died in 1939, after his last, triumphal 
visit to Crete to receive, at Herakleion, the highest honors 
the Cretans could bestow upon him. It is at that moment that 
I prefer to think of him, eighty-eight years of age, replying to 
the address of welcome in words which epitomize the story 
I have tried to tell, however inadequately and incompletely, in 
this book: 

We know now that the old traditions were true. We have before 
our eyes a wondrous spectacle the resurgence, namely, of a civiliza- 
tion twice as old as that of Hellas. It is true that on the old Palace 
site what we see are only the ruins of ruins, but the whole is still 
inspired with Minos's spirit of order and organization, and the free and 
natural art of the great architect Daedalus. The spectacle indeed, that 
we have here before us is assuredly of world-wide significance. Com- 
pared with it how small is any individual contribution! So far indeed, 
as the explorer may have attained success, it has been as the humble 
instrument, inspired and guided by a greater Power. 


OVER an hour and a half ago the agonized, ague-shaken old 
bus had ground its way out of the Cathedral Square in He- 
rakleion, en route for the south coast of Crete. At every halt on 
the long, gear-whining climb into the mountains we had taken on 
board such a weight of human, animal and vegetable freight, 
that I calculated while contemplating the unfenced precipices 
within a few feet of our wheels that we must be carrying more 
than twice the load that our ancient Ford had been built to carry. 

Now we were climbing slowly and laboriously over the high 
mountain chain which is the spine of Crete. Right left, left 
right, swung the bus, and every turn in the road only led to an- 
other. At the highest point I estimated that we were at some five 
thousand feet above sea level, probably higher, but the mountains 
still rose above us, some capped with snow like sugar icing. At 
points the road clung to the edge of the mountain, while enor- 
mous boulders seemed poised, ready to fall upon us from the 
upper slopes; the dust rose behind us, and on the rutted, rocky 
road, our wheels danced on the rough surface. 

Suddenly the long agony of the engine was over. It stopped 
screaming and gratefully accepted top gear; as we began to 
bowl down the other side of the pass, I heard the rumble of 
the tires again. 

We had broken through the mountain chain and were com- 
ing smoothly down into a lovely fertile plain in which were more 
olive trees than I had seen in the whole of Crete; from above they 
seemed almost a forest. The sunlight slanted down over the 
mountains, making the green of the fields glow like emerald; 
and against this brilliant green of spring grass the old powdery- 
grey olives stood in ranks, with occasional bands and patches of 
reddish earth which had been newly ploughed. Away to the right 
rose a snow-covered peak which seemed unbelievably high and 
remote Mount Ida itself. And ahead of us smiled the sea, the 
southern sea beyond which, only two hundred miles away, lay 
the north coast of Africa. 

It was evening as we moved quietly down into the rich 



Plain of Messara, most fertile region in Crete. Here had been 
found the tombs of some of the earliest peoples to settle in 
the island; here also, on its knoll overlooking the plain, near the 
harbor where once the Minoan galleys had moored, stood the 
Palace of Phaestos, the southern rival of Knossos. It was at 
Phaestos that I had arranged to spend the night. 

I was relieved when at last the bus stopped near a small 
Byzantine church. The driver, after courteously carrying out 
my bag and absurd typewriter, waved his arm towards a hill on 
the left of the road. "Phaestos," he said with a smile. 

"Efcharisto!" I replied, delighted to have remembered 
enough of my Greek phrase book to thank these charming 
people. The dusty old vehicle moved off round the bend, past 
a dismantled German gun emplacement, and I began to climb 
the path which wound up the slope through the olive trees. 

Near the top of the hill I was met by Alexandros Venetikos 
(Alexander the Venetian), a small, lithe, dark man who, with 
his sister, is responsible for the rest house at Phaestos. But I had 
come so early in the year, he said long before the students and 
the tourists usually arrived. However, I was welcome, and 
though they had only candles and oil lamps, and could only offer 
me eggs, a little bacon and a glass of wine still, I would have 
a comfortable bed, and the Palace to myself. As I followed 
Alexandros into the rest house, the first faint stars were beginning 
to tremble in the night sky. 

At supper round the candlelit table, the light wavered on 
the dark faces of the caretaker, his sister in her red head scarf, 
and a tall mountaineer friend, who, with his broad shoulders 
and slim waist, looked as if he were lineally descended from 
the Cup-bearer himself. We talked of local beliefs. They told 
me that in some parts of Crete it is believed that, up to the 
time of its christening, a child is surrounded by evil spirits. 
So, after a birth, all the relatives and friends meet in the house, 
making merry as noisily as possible so as to drown the child's 
cries, and thus prevent them being heard by evil ones. This may 
have its origin in the legend of Zeus, entrusted by his mother to 
the Corybantes, who drowned his cries by the noise of cymbals 
and drums to prevent his being devoured by his father, 
Cronos. . . . 


It is certain that respect for the old gods is still strong 
among some modern Cretans. I was reminded of a true story 
told me by an English friend living in Crete. One day she asked 
a Cretan bus driver, "Why don't you make the buses run to 
time?" He replied that it was impossible. "But in England we 
do it," she told him. "If only you would make a little extra effort, 
the service could be perfect." 

"Perfect?" he asked, aghast. "Perfection is for the gods. We 
are but men. . . ." 

After supper I left my hosts and walked out into the moon- 
light, and down the slope to the Palace of Phaestos, spread out 
at my feet (see Plate 46). Phaestos is far more magnificently 
sited than Knossos. It stands on a high knoll proudly command- 
ing the Messara Plain, with the hills lying well back at a respect- 
ful distance on each side. All the familiar Minoan features are 
there the maze of rooms, the broad sweeping stairways, the 
storerooms or magazines with their great pithoi. But in contrast 
to Knossos the site was in some ways simpler to excavate and 
preserve, so that Halbherr, unlike Evans, had only to do the 
minimum of restoration. 

The full moon threw a magical light over the noble flights 
of stone steps; the long, shadowed corridors; the doorways of 
gleaming white stone. The place seemed compounded of moon- 
light, like a fairy palace which would disappear when dawn 
came. The gentle radiance softened the contours of the broken 
walls, and gave to the majestic ruin a strange, dreamlike quality, 
making it possible to imagine the walls at their original height, 
to replace the great bronze and silver doors, and to people the 
shadows with Minoans. 

I found myself in a room with walls of shining white gypsum, 
which seems to have been an audience chamber. The original 
stone benches remained on two sides, and in the center were 
bases from which lofty columns had once sprung (see Plate 45). 
To right and left, doorways rose to their original height. Sitting 
on one of the stone seats, one could recreate the Palace. Beyond 
that doorway, if I passed through it, might I not find Phaestos 
just as it was with the gay frescoes restored, the walls and 
ceilings in place; would I hear, perhaps, the hum of voices, gay 
feminine laughter and gossip, the footsteps of some important 
court official hurrying along the corridor, the solemn chanting of 


priests celebrating the sacred rites of the Mother Goddess? 
I sat silent, looking at the full moon high in the clear sky, 
and hearing only the sound of frogs croaking in the valley, 
and the little night sounds the flutter of a startled bird, and 
the fluting of an owl. ... I looked to my left and there, serene 
and splendid, high over all, rode the long, snow-covered ridge 
of Mount Ida, sacred to Zeus. 

Back in the rest house I sat up in bed, an oil lamp drawn 
close to the bedside, my books and notes scattered on the 
coverlet, trying to assemble in my mind all that had happened 
since I had stepped over the threshold of "La Belle Hel&ne de 
Menelaiis" at Mycenae; not very long ago, yet how distant it 
seemed now! There, too, I had been welcomed by friendly 
people; there, too, I had lain awake, impatient to begin the ex- 
ploration of Schliemann's Mycenae the first stage in my long 
journey into prehistory. Now that journey was nearly over. I had 
followed Ariadne's thread through the Labyrinth. Where had it 
led me? Are we now in the full daylight of knowledge concerning 
the ancient Aegean civilization which began in Crete, then 
spread to other islands and the mainland, from whence, perhaps, 
came its destroyers? And where does Homer fit in? And what of 
old Dr. Schliemann and his theories? Are they now quite dis- 
credited? I flicked through the pages of my diary. Somehow 
these questions must be answered, and the results of the journey 

To change the metaphor, having followed the river of 
Aegean civilization upstream nearly to its source, it was time 
to turn the boat round and glide rapidly downstream again, 
noting the chief landmarks. So, in the few remaining pages, I 
will try to sum up what is currently accepted by Aegean archae- 
ologists, bearing in mind that opinions vary, and that older 
theories are constantly being modified, or even abandoned 
altogether, as new knowledge is gained. The following outline 
of the course of Minoan civilization is based mainly on that 
of the late John Pendlebury, to whose book, The Archaeology 
of Crete, I am deeply indebted. 

It is believed that the ancestors of the Minoans came to 
Crete roughly between 4000 and 3000 B.C, Their original home 


seems to have been in southwest Anatolia and Syria at least, 
says Pendlebury, their nearest cultural connections were with 
the people of those areas. They were at the Neolithic stage of 
development, i.e., they used fairly highly developed stone im- 
plements and weapons, and they were a seafaring people. Their 
settlements occur in small groups, each one reached from some 
point on the coast. These people were at first mainly cave 
dwellers, though later they built elementary shelters. 

But although the Neolithic settlers were probably Asiatic, 
Sir Arthur Evans believed that "the determining cause of this 
brilliant development of early civilization is ... traceable to 
the opening out of communications with the Nile Valley across 
the Libyan Sea." There is no doubt that there was contact with 
the Lower Nile and with Libya from extremely early times. The 
late Professor Percy Newberry, addressing the British Association 
in 1923, pointed out that at the very beginning of the historic 
period in Lower Egypt, the cult objects of the people of the 
Western Delta (nearest to Crete) "included (1) the Harpoon, 
(2) the Figure of Eight Shield with crossed arrows, (3) the 
Mountain and probably, (4) the Double Axe and, (5) a Dove 
or Swallow. With the exception of the Harpoon all these cult 
objects are also found in Crete." And even the Harpoon may have 
been later modified into the familiar Minoan Trident, which 
appears on the walls of Knossos and Phaestos. 

There may even have been a landing by small bands of 
Lower Egyptian refugees after the conquest of Lower Egypt 
by Menes, in 3200 B.C. It is an interesting fact that the capital of 
the Western Delta of the Nile, in pre-Dynastic times (before 
3200 B.C.), was Sais, whose goddess, Neith, had as her emblem 
the figure-eight shield. The people of the Western Delta were 
known to be closely connected with Libya in fact the Egyptian 
language was unknown to the inhabitants. 

Now this Libyan connection gives us some most significant 
clues to the possible cultural origins of the Cretans. For one 
of the features of Libyan male dress in this remote time as 
shown in statuettes was the "Libyan Sheath," which, like the 
codpiece of medieval times, protected the genitals. The Minoans 
wore the same sheath. The Libyan men wore their hair with a 
side lock falling down from in front of the ear over the breast 
or through the armpit. So did the Minoan men (see the illustra- 


tions of the Cup-bearer, Plate 23, and the Priest King, Plate 38). 
There are other curious examples; for instance, in the very early 
"tholos" tombs discovered in the Messara not far from Phaestos 
the excavators found "idols or human figurines entirely di- 
vergent in class from the old Neolithic class but identical with 
those found in prehistoric tombs at Naquada [in Egypt]/' 

So we have two main elements in Neolithic Crete; an original 
stock from western Asia, constantly reinforced by other peoples 
from the same area; and a quickening influence from the Nile 
Valley, either through trade or through the immigration of a 
small number of refugees from the Western Delta, driven out 
when the Kings of Upper Egypt conquered the whole country 
at the beginning of the third millennium B.C. They may have 
taught the original settlers new arts e.g., fine lapidary work 
and the manufacture of faience for which the Delta was fa- 
mous. 1 

During the thousand years which archaeologists call for 
convenience the Early Minoan Period (circa 2800-1800 B.C.), 
the population of the island increased rapidly. Important towns 
grew up on the coast, at Palaikastro, Pseira, Mokhlos and 
Gournia. The most prosperous settlements were in the east, 
though in the south the Messara Plain became well populated. 
With the concentration of population in towns and villages, a 
class of professional craftsmen arose; art, especially that of the 
potter, flourished. Life became easier; communications were 
improved. Foreign relations especially with Asia, Egypt and 
Libya became closer. But in metalwork the Minoans were still 
backward. Sculpture was in its infancy and the seal stones were 
of poor design and quality. 

The island was at this time divided into three groups, 
central, southern and eastern, which appear to have been inde- 
pendent of each other. There were no palaces. 

The Middle Minoan Period (circa 1800-1600 B.C.) 2 is 

1 Evans suggests that Minoan agriculture may have benefited by contacts 
with Egypt. "The beans found in the store-rooms at Knossos were at once 
recognized by our workmen as identical with those imported from Egypt." 

"The dates for these periods (which in any case are only approximate) 
differ from those given by Pendlebury in his excellent The Archaeology of 
Crete, as modern scholars tend to place them somewhat later than he did 
twenty years ago. I am indebted to Dr. Frank Stubbings of Cambridge for the 
revised dating. 


marked by "two most important changes; the rise of the Palaces, 
and, allowing for a local difference due to natural difficulties of 
communication, unity of culture [Pendlebury].* During these 
two brilliant centuries the three main divisions of the country 
began to coalesce. The population began to spread west of Ida. 
Crete may still have been divided into many states, but Knossos 
appears to have gained chief political power; Phaestos may have 
remained independent. Building methods became so similar that 
it is clear that the Minoan culture was now a unity. Bronze was 
introduced, making it possible to cut fine ashlar masonry. Gyp- 
sum was used as a facing stone; buildings show evidence of 
detailed planning to this period belongs the introduction of the 
marvellous architectural features, the "light wells" and the 
elaborate drainage system. Fresco painting reached a dazzling 
level of achievement. The potter's wheel came in. A wonderful 
school of vase painting developed (see Plate 24). So did minia- 
ture sculpture and the art of making faience ( glazed clay ) . Gem 
engraving kept pace with progress in the other arts. "In Middle 
Minoan III," says Pendlebury, "the seal-stones reach the highest 
point of beauty/* 

Overseas trade had made the Minoans rich. Undisturbed 
by war, protected from the envy of their neighbors by the sea 
of which they were masters, they were acquiring a commercial 
empire. They may not have deliberately planned the conquest 
of other Aegean islands. Their Empire probably grew like the 
British Empire. First they would get permission from a local 
prince to establish a trading post; perhaps build a port. Then, 
later, the prince might ask them for help against a neighbor 
which would be given, at a price. 

So gradually, and probably peacefully, most of the country comes 
under the control of newcomers. Finally comes the stage when further 
acquisitions become necessary owing to the need of putting down 
piracy or rather of ensuring against other seafarers poaching on their 

Such was the origin of the sea empire of Minos, traditions 
of which survived until classical times, and were taken seriously 
even by historians such as Thucydides. 


By the beginning of the Late Minoan Period (circa 1550- 
1100 B.C.) ^rete was a world power, co-equal with Egypt and 
the Hittite Empire. These were the days when the proud am- 
bassadors of the Keftiu are shown on the walls of the Egyptian 
tombs, not offering tribute as members of a subject state, but 
bearing gifts from one great monarch to another. 

By 1550 B.C., there were fine roads linking the Minoan cities, 
protected by guard stations. By now Knossos had become the 
center of a highly centralized bureaucratic system; from his 
mighty Palace the King of Crete ruled over many overseas do- 
minions. Hence the size and complexity of the Palace. It was 
not merely a king's residence; it was a center of administration. 

It was the seat of a government which controlled not merely the 
neighboring regions or even the island, but a maritime empire. . . . 
We may fairly surmise that there existed a well-developed system of 
administrative machinery which needed considerable room for its of- 
fices. The rich tributes which the Kings derived from their depend- 
encies were stored in the Palaces. 3 

The other great Palace of Phaestos, in the south, may have be- 
longed to princes of the Knossian family line. 

Round each of these and other smaller palaces clustered 
handsome towns with well-built houses of stone for the solid 
burgher class, and smaller homes for the numerous artisans. 
The mountains were not bare, as they are today, but clothed 
with magnificent forests, supplying the great cypress beams 
needed for the columns, architraves and timber framing of the 

Then, at the very height of this glory, in about 1400 B.C., 
came violent destruction, ruin and death. Knossos, Phaestos, 
Hagia Triadha, Gournia, Moklilos, Mallia and Zakros all show 
traces of violent destruction, accompanied by burning. What 
had brought about this disaster? Pendlebury, as we have seen, 
believed it was due to an invasion from the mainland, of which 
the story of Theseus and his companions is the legendary symbol 
Evans believed it was due to one of the terrible earthquakes 
which had brought previous destruction to the Minoan cities, 

* Bury, History of Greece. 


though perhaps, in this case, followed either by foreign invasion 
or local insurrection. * 

Pendlebury's theory has much to support it. He points out 
that on each of the sites mentioned above there is evidence of 
destruction by fire, and that in ancient times earthquakes did 
not necessarily cause fire, as they do in modern towns with 
gas and electricity mains. But if foreign invaders destroyed the 
chief cities of Crete fourteen hundred years before Christ, who 
were they, and why are they believed to have come from the 

To find the answer we shall have to go back six hundred 
more years and look at the mainland of Greece as it was in 
2000 B.C. when Crete had already attained a high degree of 
civilization. In Greece (not then called by that name), as in 
Crete and some of the Aegean islands, there was a Bronze 
Age population which had entered the country a thousand 
years earlier. They belonged to the dark-haired "Mediterranean" 
race and may have been akin to the inhabitants of Crete and 
the Cyclades. Their language, like that of the Cretans, is lost, 
but they have left us memorials of their presence in certain place 
names which do not belong to the Greek language. These are 
mainly names ending in "-os" and "-nth," of which there are 
many in Greece and, significantly, even more in Crete. For 
instance, Corinth, Ilissos, llalicarnassos, Tylissos these names 
of Greek towns and rivers are not Greek; they have been left 
behind by the population which lived there before the ancestors 
of the modern Greeks entered the country. Other names were of 
flowers, plants and birds with which the invading Greeks were 
not familiar such names as hyacinth and narcissus which have 
passed into our own language. In Crete there were scores of such 
old non-Greek place names of which Knossos itself is the most 
obvious example. 

Most significantly, the very name for "sea" thalassa the 
sea by which the Greeks lived, is not Greek. Scholars suggest this 
is another indication that the people which invaded what is now 
Greece round about 2000 B.C. came from the north from the 
interior of Europe where the sea was unknown. Therefore, on 
arriving on the shores of the Mediterranean, they would naturally 
borrow the name used by the people whom they had conquered. 


These conquerors for whose presence there is positive archaeo- 
logical evideftce after circa 2000 B.C. are believed by scholars 
to have been the ancestors of Homer's "bronze-clad Achaeans." 
And it was these men, a warrior race from a harder, northern 
climate, who became overlords of the Mediterranean peoples and 
set up their mighty citadels at Mycenae, Tiryns and elsewhere. 

Inevitably these people, who may have been organized in a 
loose federation of states, with Mycenae at the head, came into 
contact with the great Minoan Empire to the south and so pro- 
duced the fusion of mainland and Cretan culture which we call 
Mycenaean. Authorities differ fundamentally in their interpreta- 
tion of Minoan-Mycenaean relations. Evans believed that the 
Minoans colonized Mycenae, and Pendlebury agreed with him. 
"So Minoanized does the rest of the Aegean become," he wrote, 
"that it is impossible for the present writer at least to avoid the 
conclusion that it was dominated politically by Crete. . . ." 

But Professor Wace, who probably knows more about 
Mycenae than anybody else, does not accept this view. He 
believes that the mainland rulers remained politically inde- 
pendent, but were attracted by the higher civilization of Crete. 
They imitated it in their architecture, dress and art, and may, in 
fact, have employed Minoan artists to work for them on the 
mainland. Those who hold Wace's belief point out that though 
the style of the objects found in the shaft graves, e.g., the en- 
graved dagger sheaths, is unmistakably Minoan, the subject 
matter hunting and fighting is not. Such subjects would have 
more appeal to a northern warrior race, and the impression left 
by "Mycenaean" art is that of Minoan craftsmen working to the 
orders of a foreign master. Notice also the decidedly non-Minoan 
faces on the Mycenaean death mask ( Plate 12 ) . 4 

Whatever may have been the cause, it is certain that, after 
the fall of Knossos, the mainland cities, and especially Mycenae, 
rose to the peak of their power and wealth. Pendlebury believed 
that the Achaeans or "Mycenaeans" attacked and destroyed 
the Cretan cities as a political move probably because they 
wished to smash the Cretan monopoly of trade and obtain a 
share of the rich traffic with Egypt. They do not seem to have 
occupied and colonized Crete, since, after 1400 B.C., Minoan cul- 

4 For further information on this point see Appendices. 


ture still continues, though in a minor key, in the smaller Cretan 
communities. The Palaces, with their ruling class and hive of 
civil servants, seem to have been destroyed, but at a lower level 
Cretan civilization continued until it was absorbed into the com- 
mon culture of the Aegean. 

The scene now shifts to Greece, which from 1400 to 1200 
was wealthier and probably more united than it was to be again 
for five hundred years. Throughout the period Mycenae was 
dominant; it was then that the Mycenaean princes enlarged their 
Citadel, built the Lion Gate and hollowed out of the hillsides 
some of the earlier "beehive" tombs described in Chapter Five. 
The shaft graves were, of course, much earlier ( 1650-1550 B.C. ) . 
In his lofty castle, dominating the community, the King enter- 
tained his guests with banqueting and minstrelsy, as Homer 
describes. The Mycenaean nobles loved hunting and chariot 
racing. Their women, like the Minoans before them, wore tight- 
waisted jackets, with open bosoms, huge flounced skirts, elabo- 
rate coiffures and lots of jewellery. It was a splendid age, this 
heroic period to which Homer looked back during the Dark Age 
which followed the collapse of the Achaean Empire. 

But before that happened the Achaeans, having defeated 
the Kings of Crete, broke through to the rich East, founding set- 
dements at Rhodes, Cos, and Cyprus; trading with Egypt; ex- 
changing the products of the Aegean for luxuries such as gold, 
ivory and textiles. An interesting point is that there have been 
discovered at Boghaz Keui, the ancient capital of the Hittite 
kings, in Asia Minor, clay documents referring to the King of 
Akhfyava which nearly all scholars now accept as the first docu- 
mentary reference to the Achaeans the word which Homer used 
most often to describe the Greeks. 

Then, in the thirteenth century B.C., Egypt adds her testi- 
mony. In 1221 B.C., an invading host moved down on Egypt, led 
by the King of Libya, but most of the invaders came from the 
north. Among them the Egyptian inscriptions mention the "Achai- 
washa" probably another reference to the Achaeans or "My- 
cenaeans." The invasion was unsuccessful, but a generation later 
a second great wave came down from the north, including a 
mighty host of the "sea peoples." This was the coalition defeated 
by Harnesses III in a land and sea battle, and among them the 


Egyptian inscriptions mention "Damma" who may have been 
the Danaoi. It was an age of unrest and vast migrations of peo- 
ple; the last attempt, especially, seems to have been far more 
than the advance of professional armies, but of whole tribes, 
moving down the coast of Syria and Palestine with their women, 
children and baggage wagons, "The Isles," wrote the Pharaoh's 
priestly chronicler, "were in tumult." 

Probably the last desperate venture of the Mycenaean Em- 
pire, or coalition of states, was the siege of Troy, which history, 
legend and archaeology all agree was fought during the first 
quarter of the twelfth century. This again seems to have been a 
political stroke, perhaps to break the Trojan stranglehold on the 
Black Sea trade. But by this time the Achaeans were facing peril 
at home. The final chapter in this ancient drama, revealed by the 
spade but living more richly on the lips of poets tells of the 
destruction of the destroyers. For the Achaeans, who had broken 
the power of Knossos and inherited the wealth of the old Minoan 
Empire, were themselves overthrown in the twelfth and eleventh 
centuries by yet another wave of northern immigrants of the 
same Greek-speaking stock. These were the Dorians the an- 
cestors of the "classical" Greeks and those of today. They broke 
up the highly organized Mycenaean state into small cantons. 

Centuries later, when the old Mycenaean cities lay in ruin 
and the Minoan Empire was forgotten, a Greek poet of genius 
produced, from a number of much earlier epics, the Iliad and 
the Odyssey. These earlier poems, which glorified the deeds of 
the heroes of the Mycenaean Age, had been transmitted orally 
from generation to generation, and although they were modified 
and altered to suit prevailing Dorian fashions, they still preserved 
the names of the Mycenaean cities, Mycenaean leaders and their 
deeds, and details of Mycenaean social customs. 

They may even contain unconscious memories of Cretan 
glories, transferred to fairyland by a generation which could not 
imagine that they had once existed. Consider Homer's description 
of the mythical "Isle of Phaeacia," where Odysseus is washed 
ashore after his shipwreck Of her country the King's daughter, 
Nausikaa, says: 

* , . there is no man on earth, nor ever will be, who would dare set 
hostile feet on Phaeacian soil. The gods are too fond of us for that. 


Remote in this sea-beaten home of ours, we are the outposts of man- 
kind. . . . 

Could there be a better description of Crete in the days of her 
glory? And in a later passage occur the lines: 

For the Phaeacians have no use for the bow and quiver, but spend 
their energy on masts and oars and on the graceful craft they love to 
sail across the foam-flecked seas. 

Alcinous, King of Phaeacia, tells his guest: 

But the things in which we take perennial delight are the feast, 
the lyre, the dance, clean linen in plenty, a hot bath and our beds. So 
forward now, my champion dancers, and show us your steps, so that 
when he gets home our guest may be able to tell his friends how far 
we leave all other folk behind in seamanship, in speed of foot, in 
dancing and in song. 

May not this be a folk memory of the luxurious life of the 
Knossian Palace? For in Homer's own time, at least five hundred 
years after the fall of the Cretan power, nothing remained in 
Crete itself to tell the newcomers that the island had once been 
the center of a mighty Empire. The curious Dorians found, in the 
crumbling ruins of Knossos, a few fragments of the bull frescoes, 
with youths and maidens, and these may have helped in the de- 
velopment of the legend of Minos and the Athenian captives, and 
of Theseus and the Minotaur, As for the Labyrinth, this is simply 
derived from the labnjs another non-Greek word, meaning the 
double axe, the most familiar symbol on the walls of Knossos. 
As for the mysterious underground maze in which Minos kept 
the bull-monster, this story may have been brought back to 
Greece by venturesome Dorians who found their way into the 
great sewers of the Palace drainage system which were big 
enough to accommodate a man and were, of course, quite un- 
known in their own primitive communities. 

So, thanks to Evans and his fellow-scholars, building on the 
foundations which Schliemann and Dorpfeld laid, we can survey 
a vast new territory of prehistoric life in Europe. The old legends 


and myths have been proved to contain more truth than the 
dry-as-dust historians would admit. For this knowledge we have 
to thank first Schliemann, who trusted the ancient traditions, 
and had the means and the will to justify his faith. But for pa- 
tient, scientific investigation, analysis and synthesis, we owe our 
debt to Evans and the line of devoted scholars who have suc- 
ceeded him. 

Homer now appears as more than a weaver of dreams and 
fairy tales. He wrote in a period of cultural twilight. He had not 
seen the walls of Ilium, or watched Agamemnon ride through 
Mycenae's Lion Gate, or sat in the frescoed hall of King Minos 
at Knossos; but his antecedents had seen these wonders. So it 
happens that in the poems there are preserved, like flies in amber, 
descriptions of noble rooms, works of art, arms and armor, and 
a way of life which had vanished in Homer's own day, but which 
the spade of the archaeologist has now proved to have existed. 

Ours also is a twilight age, especially for humane studies. 
The Schliemanns and the Evanses, men who had the leisure and 
the wealth to preserve knowledge for its own sake, are dead; 
their successors, working with far more limited resources, are 
doing fine work; for example, Professor Wace's book, Mycenae, 
marks another step forward in our understanding of the My- 
cenaeans. But how much more remains to be learnedl The mys- 
terious Minoan writing, which Evans went to Crete in the hope 
of deciphering, remains still a mystery; 5 and in Crete, in spite 
of the work of scholars and archaeologists from Britain, France, 
America, Italy and elsewhere, more remains beneath the soil 
than has yet been taken out of it. The valley in which the Palace 
of Minos stands, could, if excavated, perhaps yield tombs and 
treasures equal to Egypt 's "Valley of the Tombs of the Kings." 
But how is such work to be done today? Where is the man of 
wealth who is also a man of genius who could finance, let 
alone plan, such work? What Government would dare to ask 
for a vote of 250,000 for excavating and rebuilding a three- 
thousand-year-old palace? One is left sadly wondering how many 
years must pass before the world is settled, and civilized, enough 
to carry on the great work which Schliemann and Evans began. 

* Since the first edition of this book was published, the "Linear B" script 
has been portly deciphered. See Appendix "B." 


The morning sun, shining through uncurtained windows, 
woke me early. I breakfasted on the terrace, with the Palace 
spread out a few hundred feet below me in the sun, which made 
the white walls shine like snow, and patterned the courtyards, 
corridors, and broad-sweeping stairways with ink-black shadows. 
Mount Ida, with its icy-white crest, rode high and serene in the 
innocent blue of morning. Ahead, beyond the flat-topped hill 
on which the Palace stood, the rich, green Plain of Messara ex- 
panded till it met the enclosing hills. 

These hurried, fleeting visits, I reflected, stirring my coffee, 
are also part of the pattern of our time. Fifty years ago nay, less 
than that young men of modest means could spend months in 
such rewarding places, planning a career, a book, or a university 
thesis; or perhaps dare we say it just enjoying themselves? 
Today such experiences can be enjoyed only by three "privileged 
classes" the rapidly dwindling minority of tourists who can 
afford to pay their passage, the even smaller minority who travel 
on university grants and, very occasionally, fortunate journalists, 
who "snatch a fearful joy," conscious all the time of the return 
airline ticket in their pocket and the impatient editor waiting at 
home. . . . 

Natonalist passions, suspicion, intolerance, the propaganda 
lie all the evils which Evans fought have come near to destroy- 
ing the world he knew. Yet in our Age of Anxiety we must make 
the best of what chances we have. For a short time the grip of 
unreason has relaxed a little just sufficiently to allow a few 
people to enjoy the stimulus of travel and friendly intercourse 
between nations, which used to be considered the mark of civili- 

I walked down the slope from the rest house, and slowly 
mounted the broad, magnificent stairway as noble as that of 
Versailles which leads to the entrance of this four-thousand- 
year-old Palace (see Plate 43). I passed through the long cor- 
ridors, past the innumerable doorways and flights of steps which 
once led to higher apartments. I crossed the broad Central Court- 
yard, on, on, up further stairways and along further corridors 
until I arrived at the furthermost limit of the Palace the point 


at which the knoll on which it stands falls away in a sheer cliff 
to the fertile Plain of Messara below. 

Suddenly, from far below, piercing the morning air, came a 
thin, high trumpet note. A herald announcing the arrival of an 
Embassy from Egypt? No just a shepherd's horn. 

To right and left rose the low, gentle hills, partly shadowed 
in the morning sun; the hills in which were found the **tholos" 
tombs of some of the earliest peoples to land and settle in Crete. 
Ahead lay the Messara itself, a lush green patterned with ranks 
of powder-grey olives, each throwing a long morning shadow 
across the damp grass. Among the old grey stones of the Palace, 
pink asphodel sprang, its many-clustered flowers standing quite 
still in the warm, windless air. There were red and blue wild 
anemones and, at my feet, painting the green plain with bright 
gold, sweep upon sweep of the tiny yellow oxalis. 

Spring . . . spring had come to Crete from the south, across 
Homer's wine-dark sea, which had been the path of the first 
Cretan settlers five or six thousand years ago. In a day and a half 
I would be walking the rain-washed pavements of cold, windy 
London. But I had seen the arrival of Persephone on 

**. . . this sea-beaten home of ours, 
. . . the outpost of mankind. . /' 

whence came the Spring of Europe. 



AT the end of the first edition of this book, published in the 
autumn of 1953, I mentioned some remarkable discoveries made 
at Mycenae in the spring of 1952, more important than any made 
on that site since Schliemann discovered the shaft graves in 1876. 
At the end of the brief Appendix describing some of the treasures 
brought to light in 1952, I wrote, "By the time these words ap- 
pear in print, no doubt other graves of the newly discovered Cir- 
cle will have been excavated, perhaps revealing treasures equal- 
ling or exceeding in wonder those which Schliemann found three 
quarters of a century ago." 

These words have been proved abundantly true, as have the 
concluding lines of the book, which read, "Another chapter will 
have been added to our story; a story which can never end, for 
if the Schliemanns and the Evanses have had their triumphs, 
who can say that the last secrets have been revealed, and that 
archaeologists of the future may not achieve even greater vic- 
tories over the forces of Time and Decay?" 

In Chapter Five I have described my visit to Mycenae, 
which I approached along the narrow winding road which leads 
from the village of Charvati to the Citadel. Little did I know that 
at one point I had walked over the grave of a Mycenaean prin- 
cess, nor that within a few yards of the roadside lay a Grave Cir- 
cle containing more than sixteen graves of Mycenaean royalty 
of the Middle Bronze Age. A few months after I left, Dr. John 
Papadimitriou of the Greek Archaeological Service made this 
marvellous discovery, and during the past two years treasures 
have come to light almost equalling in splendor and historical 
significance those which the German excavator found. 

During the same period British archaeologists, working 
under Professor Wace, have been active, excavating in the Prehis- 



toric Cemetery just outside the Lion Gate, and uncovering the 
ruins of Mycenaean houses outside the walls of the Citadel, re- 
vealing objects which have thrown new light on the Mycenaean 
Age and confirmed its close connection with the world described 
by Homer. 

Even more remarkable, though less spectacular, is the partial 
decipherment, in 1952, of the Minoan/Mycenaean "Linear B" 
script which Evans first discovered at Knossos, and which has 
baffled scholars for more than fifty years. Chief credit for this 
achievement goes to an English architect, the late Michael Ven- 
tris, though American and European scholars had been working 
on similar lines and helped him in his researches. 

The two discoveries are closely linked, because tablets and 
objects have been discovered in Greece inscribed with the same 
form of writing which Evans found on the Knossian tablets, 
proving that the Mycenaeans used the same system of writing 
as was used in Crete during the latter part of the Late Minoan- 
Period (1400-1100 B.C.). Recently Professor Blegen, of the Uni- 
versity of Cincinnati, found many scores of inscribed tablets at 
Pylos, and Wace has discovered similar tablets and inscribed 
jars at Mycenae. Moreover, it now appears fairly certain that the 
language was an early form of Greek, thus supporting the theory 
of Wace and others that during its latter stages the Minoan 
civilization at Knossos was strongly influenced by the mainland 
and that, in fact, Knossos may have been conquered by the _M)fc 
cenaeans. Wace has also stated that the recently excavate3 graves 
in die Prehistoric Cemetery show continuity of culture, and that 
there was not a complete archaeological break in the culture of 
Mycenae at the end of the Bronze Age. This, he suggests, tends 
to disprove the hitherto-accepted belief that the Dorian Invasion 
brought in a Dark Age. However, not all scholars accept this 
view, some asserting that though Mycenae continued to be oc- 
cupied after the Dorian sack, the Mycenaean culture was cer- 
tainly disrupted. Epic poetry was the main medium through 
which its memory was kept alive. 

Certainly Aegean archaeology is entering upon a new and 
exciting phase, in which some earlier theories may have to be 

In this Appendix, therefore, I shall describe some of the 

9 * 


recent finds at Mycenae. In that which follows, Ventris's work 
on the "Linear B" script will be discussed, after which I shall try 
to relate the two, and endeavor to indicate how these extraor- 
dinary developments are likely to influence our view of the 
Aegean civilization which was first brought to light by Schlie- 
mann and Evans. 

In 1952 Wace and his British staff began further explorations 
of the Prehistoric Cemetery just outside the Lion Gate. In Chap- 
ter Five I mentioned that "Professor Wace has shown that the 
prehistoric cemetery of which the shaft graves form part orig- 
inally extended beyond the line of the Cyclopean walls, west of 
the Lion Gate." 

He found, in 1952, a number of graves of the Middle Bronze 
Age, with characteristic burials of the period. These, apparently, 
were not royal graves, and they had been plundered in antiquity, 
though interesting objects had survived. He also found what 
may have been discarded loot from a "tholos" tomb of the Late 
Helladic Period. Among these was a remarkable group of ivories, 
some of which were in the form of our old friend, the "figure-of- 
eight" shield ( see page 51 ) . These seem to have been models of 
the great body shield mentioned by Homer. Other ivories seem 
to have formed part of the mountings of wooden furniture. For 
example, there was one with a tenon at the base for the insertion 
of a socket, which may have formed part of a bedstead or chair, 
though Wace suggests that it may have been the head of a 
herald's staff analogous to the caduceus which is usually borne 
by Hermes. 

Another ivory showed a griffin in low relief, masterfully 
carved (remember the griffins on the walls of the Throne Room 
at Knossos). There was also the handle of a silver cup of the 
same type as the famous golden cups of Vapheio (see Plates 34 
and 35); the barrel of the handle and the upper and lower 
plates were inlaid with gold and niello. 

More interesting was a small hoard of bronzes found near 
the spring Perseia. They seem to have been the stock in trade of 
some worker in bronze. Wace found tools, including chisels, a 
drill and a hammer, a double axe, an adze, a dagger and several 
curved knives. These were of the Mycenaean period. 

It should be remembered that not all the Mycenaeans lived 
within the walls of the Citadel. On the slopes below were many 


hotfces, and it was in the ruins of these houses that Wace made 
his most remarkable discoveries. In one of these, which seems 
to have belonged to an oil merchant, was a storeroom with large 
jars (pithoi) ranged along the wall as described by Odysseus in 
the Odyssey. But the significant fact was that this house had been 
burned and the stirrup jars had been deliberately broken or un- 
stoppered to add fuel to the flames. 

The two basement rooms of the same house contained thirty- 
eight clay tablets inscribed with "Linear B," like the script dis- 
covered by Evans at Knossos. These, except for surface finds 
made in 1950, were the first to be found anywhere in a purely 
private house. Like those found at Knossos and at Pylos (by 
Blegen), they seem to have been merely accounts and inven- 
tories. Since their discovery they have been partially deciphered 
by Ventris. On one of these tablets was a sketch of a man in a 
short kilt, standing to attention. Perhaps this was an artist's draft 
for a wall fresco, as at Knossos. We know that the Mycenaeans 
were in the habit of adorning their plastered walls with frescoes 
of men and women, chariots and hunting scenes. 

In 1953, Wace continued work at Mycenae. To the north 
and south of the House of the Oil Merchant he discovered two 
more houses dating from the thirteenth century B.C. This time 
he found even more magnificent ivoiy carvings. 

Such a wealth of Mycenaean work in ivory has probably never 
been found before. Certainly nothing which could be compared with 
this has been found for at least sixty years. 

On the north side of the House of the Oil Merchant the 
excavators examined a house which stands on a platform held up 
by massive walls. Two rooms were revealed, the western one con- 
taining ivory carvings which appear to have been used mainly 
as inlays and decoration for wooden caskets, beds, chairs and 
other furniture. Here again, the spade of the archaeologist has 
confirmed what Homer wrote, for he mentions ivory as an adorn- 
ment of furniture, harness, swords and keys. More model figure- 
of-eight shields were found in ivory, also ivory lids, and the head 
of a Mycenaean warrior wearing the Boars' Tusk Helmet men- 
tioned by Homer (see page 52). 

Wace called this the "House of Shields/' and named the 


other, southern house the "House of Sphinxes," from a sftiall 
ivory plaque of couchant sphinxes which it contained. These are 
rather like the lions shown on the Lion Gate. "The anatomy of 
the legs and bodies is delicately drawn," he writes. They wear 
lily-crowns' and their hair streams out behind." 

Much was also learned about the construction of Mycenaean 
houses. They had wooden thresholds to the doorways, as de- 
scribed by Homer, and the basements recalled the basements 
in the palaces of Priam and Menelaiis described by the poet. It 
is now very clear that Homer preserved many of the features of 
what we call Mycenaean civilization, even though he wrote 
during the transitional age between iron and bronze. 

But perhaps the most important discovery made by Wace in 
1952 and 1953 was that of a number of inscribed clay tablets, 
clay seals and seal impressions. Some of these were found in the 
"House of Shields." Other specimens of Mycenaean writing were 
found in the "House of Sphinxes." In a doorway leading to the 
storeroom were seven clay seals from the same signet, and on the 
back of each seal was an incised inscription in the "Linear B" 
script, all different. 

The important fact [writes Wace], is that we have now clear 
evidence of writing in each of the three houses in this row of large 
private houses. This confirms beyond all doubt that reading and writ- 
ing were generally known to citizens of Mycenae and that their use 
was not confined to kings and officers, the priesthood and tax-gathers. 

Further excavations in the Prehistoric Cemetery revealed 
continuity of culture between the end of the Bronze Age the 
latest phase of Mycenaean civilization and the beginning of the 
Iron Age to which Homer belonged. 

One of the graves belongs to the latest phase of Mycenaen civili- 
zation at the close of the Bronze Age and dates from the twelfth cen- 
tury B.C. In it two characteristic vases were found, a small jug and a 
bowl typical of the so-called Granary style. Next in date is a grave 
(sunk in the ruins of the House of Shields) of the opening of the Iron 
Age, with proto-Geometric pottery. The two vases, a large amphora 
with concentric circles and a small, duck-like vase and simple linear 
ornament, carry on the tradition. . , . 


graves were found which also "carried on the tradi- 
tion." The objects found in them vases, iron daggers, bronze 
pins, etc., would have little appeal to the layman compared with 
the riches found in the Royal Grave Circle, which will be de- 
scribed later, and yet they have greater significance historically. 
For, as the excavator says: 

This series of graves is valuable because they give us the se- 
quence of style and show that there was no archaeological break in the 
culture of Mycenae at the end of the Bronze Age. . . . The effects 
of the Dorian Invasion have been unduly magnified by historians. The 
archaeological facts suggest that there was no definite racial or cul- 
tural break, but only a political revolution. 1 The citadel of Mycenae 
was burned at the end of the Bronze Age, but there was no real inter- 
ruption in its civilization. 

The work of Wace and his colleagues has not brought to 
light anything so spectacular and romantic as the discovery of the 
new Grave Circle, but their patient digging has added much to 
our knowledge of the Mycenaean civilization and its close rela- 
tionship with the heroic world of the Iliad and the Odyssey. 
Homeric architecture, Homeric arms and objects have been 
found. It has been established that the Mycenaeans had a system 
of writing which was known outside palace and official circles. 
It is also clear that, in the thirteenth century B.C., Mycenae en- 
joyed peace, since otherwise how could the wealthy merchants 
have built their houses outside the wall? But many puzzles re- 
main unsolved, some of which will be discussed at the end of 
Appendix B. 

That second-century travel writer, Pausanias, whose obser- 
vations were not accepted literally by nineteenth-century schol- 
ars, is gaining increased respect as excavation at Mycenae con- 
tinues to confirm his accuracy. The first to vindicate him was, of 
course, Schliemann, who, as I described in Chapter Four, ac- 
cepted the truth of his statement that: 

1 It is only fair to state at this point that a number of scholars disagree 
with this conclusion of Professor Wace, and assert that there was a break in 


In the ruins of Mycenae . . . there is a tomb of Atreus . . l^and 
there are also tombs of those whom Aegisthos murdered on their re- 
turn from Troy. . . . Clytemnestra and Aegisthos were buried a little 
outside the wall, for they were not deemed worthy of burial within it, 
where Agamemnon lies and those who were murdered with him. 

Schliemann dug within the walls of the Citadel and found 
the six shaft graves. In 1951, seventy-five years after Schliemann, 
Dr. J. Papadimitriou of the Greek Archaeological Service dis- 
covered the second Grave Circle, which Pausanias describes as 
being outside the wall. He found it by accident when repairing 
the so-called "Tomb of Clytemnestra." 

The newly discovered Grave Circle lies 130-140 yards west 
of the Lion Gate, partly under the road which runs between the 
Citadel and the village of Charvati. Dr. Papadimitriou believes 
that the graves were known in the time of Pausanias (127 A.D.) 
because gravesones, or stelai, similar to those found above Schlie- 
mann's shaft graves, were found "at a very small depth from the 
surface soil of the area in the days of Pausanias, which level has 
definitely been determined by the latest excavations." How- 
ever, it still remains a mystery why, if the graves were known 
at that time, they were not robbed. 

There is a difference beween the new Grave Circle and 
Schliemann's. Both have roughly the same diameter, about 27 
meters (29& yards) but the enclosing wall of the "new" Circle 
is much thicker, 1.55 meters (5 feet 1 inch) and is built of large, 
roughly hewn blocks of limestone. Chronologically it belongs to 
the same period as the graves it encloses, whereas the wall sur- 
rounding the Circle within the Citadel was built two hundred 
years after the burials, of slabs of poros stone. This was because 
Schliemann's graves originally lay outside the wall of the Citadel. 
When this was extended, and the graves came within the Citadel, 
a new encircling wall was built around them. Perhaps originally 
they were enclosed by the same kind of limestone wall which 
surrounds the newly discovered Circle. 

By April, 1954, sixteen graves had been excavated, and 
some yielded treasures almost equal to those found by Schlie- 
mann. Over two of them were found funerary stelai which bear, 
in Dr. Papadimitriou's words, ". . . beautiful representations of 
bull-hunting and lion-hunting scenes. On another grave . . , was 


fotflfc in situ the base containing a fragment of a funerary stele. 
This gave us a chance to examine again the method followed in 
the setting the stelai which were discovered by Schliemann and 
transported without their bases to the National Museum in 
Athens. As a result we found in the Grave Circle in the Citadel 
some blocks belonging to the bases of stelai which have remained 
unknown to this date. This detail alone is capable of showing 
the significance of the new graves whose excavation, as it is 
carried out today with our new scientific methods, and the 
experience and knowledge obtained since the days of Schlie- 
mann from the excavation work and writings of international 
scholars, will yield most important conclusions relative to the 
construction of the graves and the burial customs of that remote 

Dr. Papadimitriou has called the graves after the initials 
of the Greek alphabet, to distinguish them from those of Schlie- 
mann, who gave them Latin numerals. The richest is Grave 
Omicron, the excavation of which required considerable care. 

At this site the wall of the grave circle had been completely de- 
stroyed by the modern road and the whole grave was completely un- 
der the asphalt. The aqueduct of the village crossed the grave, and 
in the centre of the grave a cement tank of the aqueduct had been 
built. However only the top of the grave was injured and the rest 
unknown and had not been robbed. 

It was necessary to divert the road and the aqueduct and 
remove the tank, extremely fatiguing work, but the excavators 
were richly rewarded. For the grave seems to have been that 
of a Mycenaean princess, a young woman whose body was 
found lying in an extended position. On the north side of the 
grave, near three clay vases, was a rock-crystal bowl carved 
in the shape of a duck, ". . . having the head with the neck 
gracefully bent as the handle of the bowl and its tail as the lip. 
No similar work of art has been found in the Greek mainland 
or in Crete. Only in Egypt and in Asia Minor can we find 
perhaps similar precious vases. It is amazing how the artist 
obtained this unusually large piece of crystal [15 centimeters 
5% inches]." 

The skeleton of the princess had originally been richly 


clothed, and though the fabric had, of course, perishe<^Nhe 
gold and silver ornaments, clasps, necklaces, diadems, etc., had 
remained. On each shoulder was a bronze pin with a crystal 
head, presumably intended to hold a heavy robe; and another 
pin, of silver, with a gold head, was found near the right 
shoulder. Three necklaces lay on the breast, two made of 
various precious stones such as amethysts and carnelians, the 
other of amber beads. On one wrist was found a beautiful gold 
bracelet made of repeated spiral circles, and the princess had 
worn golden ear clips of a strangely modern appearance. Near 
her head lay two large diadems of gold, with an ivory plate 
which may have been used to hold them in position. 

In another sepulcher, Grave Xi, was found the skeleton of 
a little girl of not more than two years of age. It was almost 
in the center of the grave and adorned with beautiful miniature 
jewellery which appeared, says Papadimitriou, "... in situ 
as they would have Iain on the body of this unlucky child, and 
made a charming impression." A diadem of double gold leaves 
joined by a gold bandlet lay on the head, and there were two 
gold rings near the temples to hold the tresses together. A 
tiny necklace of small precious stones lay near the center, and 
there was even a baby's rattle of gold. . . . 

Grave Delta contained three bodies, near one of which lay 
two bronze swords and other bronze weapons and clay vaseg. 
One sword had an ivory pommel with delicate carving spiral 
decorations and four sculptured heads, two of bulls and two 
of lions. 

The body of a warrior, a tall man nearly six feet in height, 
lay in the Gamma Grave, placed with the legs apart and with 
the hands forward near the pelvis. It is not clear why this 
position was adopted (the excavators found other bodies in 
the same position), but it may be that the body was placed 
leaning against pillows, with the hands on the hips. Near this 
skeleton lay two long bronze swords with ivory pommels, a 
fine bronze dagger, a bronze lance and other weapons. An- 
other body wore a golden collar, and near the west side of the 
grave were gold ornaments and a gold cup. Bronze and ala- 
baster cups were also found. 

Papadimitriou discovered that the male and female bodies 

APPENDIX "*" 205 

buried in separate graves, and that only the graves of the 
men contained gold and silver cups. In the Iota Grave there 
were two male skeletons, one of which was equipped with a 
bronze sword and an ivory pommel, a bronze knife with a 
handle of rock crystal and a bronze lance. In many of the graves 
fine cups and vases were found, some of clay with painted 
decoration, some of stone and others of alabaster. One, discov- 
ered early in the excavations, contained bronze and silver vases, 
two gold cups, gold head ornaments and a face mask of electrum 
(gold and silver alloy). Once again, Homer's "Mycenae, rich in 
gold" has lived up to its reputation. 

The method of burial was similar to that used in Schlie- 
mann's shaft graves. The graves vary in depth, but they are 
all of the shaft type. As the grave was dug, a narrow ledge was 
left at a certain height from the bottom. The bodies were laid 
on a floor of pebbles, with their funerary gifts. Then wooden 
beams were laid from ledge to ledge and thus formed a ceiling 
for the grave. On top of these were laid canes, very close to- 
gether, the whole being covered with a thick layer of greenish 
clay, or sometimes with flagstones, to make the grave water- 
proof. Then the earth was turned back, and, as there was more 
earth than was needed to cover the grave, it was piled up in 
the form of a small mound, on top of which the funerary stele 
Hvas set. 

When it was desired to make another burial, the body of 
the earlier occupant was shifted to one side to make room for 
the newcomer. If there was still insufficient room, some of the 
clay jars would be moved from the shaft and placed on top of 
the ceiling, under the mound. No coffins were used. 

Unfortunately, there is still no clue to the identity of the 
people buried within these graves. Pausanias was told that 
the bodies were those of Aegisthos and his companions, the 
murderers of Agamemnon, who were not thought worthy of 
burial within the Citadel. We know now that they date from 
a* period several hundred years earlier than that in which 
Agamemnon is supposed to have lived. They are, in fact, the 
bodies of Mycenaean royalty who lived about 1650-1550 B.C., 
much older than the epoch of the Trojan War. 

The simple people of Mycenae whom Pausanias met in 


A.D. 127, when the famous city of Agamemnon lay in ruins, Wew 
their ancient history only by legend and the Homeric poems, and 
therefore had no sure conception of chronology such as we have 
today. None the less they remembered the names of their 
famous ancestors, the mighty warriors who made expeditions 
to the Orient and brought back gold, silver, ivory and other 
precious objects. The ivory almost certainly came from Syria, 
since we know that elephants were hunted in the Orontes Valley 
in 1500 B.C. Also the Mycenaeans clearly had close cultural con- 
tacts with the island empire of Crete, which they may eventually 
have overcome. 

Dr. Papadimitriou has reached the conclusion that the 
Grave Circles were not flat, but that a mound of earth was 
raised over each grave. When the funeral ceremony was over 
and the grave filled in, the relatives and friends of the deceased 
held a funeral feast over the grave, as is proved by the quanti- 
ties of animal bodies found in the earth covering each grave. 
"This custom," the archaeologist points out, "is referred to in 
Homer's Iliad, where, at the funeral of Patroclus, the Greeks 
assembled near the body at a funeral banquet given by Achilles, 
who killed animals, bulls, sheep and pigs, so that the blood 
ran around the body." 

One fact has continued to puzzle me, and I offer it to the 
reader for his consideration. We now know that the Mycen- 
aeans could write; clay tablets have been found in private 
houses in Mycenae (admittedly some two or three centuries 
later than the period of the Grave Circles), inscribed with the 
form of writing known as "Linear B." Vases and jars were 
also found inscribed with this script. Why, then, since the 
Mycenaeans took the trouble to draw up inventories of their 
goods and label their oil jars, did they not carve on the grave- 
stones the names of their royal dead? The Egyptians covered 
the walls of their tombs with written inscriptions; so did the 
Phoenicians. The later Greeks and Romans also set up inscribed 
gravestones. But not the Mycenaeans. Why? 

I asked this question of several archaeologist friends, and 
they admit that it is a puzzle. Dr. Frank Stubbings, Lecturer 
in Classics at Cambridge, who has also dug at Mycenae with 
Wace, wrote to me: 


% wonder myself whether a lively oral tradition of history took 
their place [i.e. the place of carved or written monumental-inscrip- 
tions]. Such an oral tradition must be behind the Homeric epics; per- 
haps epic itself had started even in Mycenaean times? Chadwick has 
pointed out how well the Greek of the tablets seems to fit the hexa- 
meter metre; and Homer preserves a number of words of this Myce- 
naean Greek otherwise lost by classical times. The stelae over the 
Shaft-Graves [both Schliemann's and Papadimitriou's] are earlier than 
any "Linear B" yet known. [Knossos, circa 1400, is the earliest; Shaft- 
Graves say 1650-1550 (?).] Linear A 2 in Crete is found as early as 
the Shaft-Graves, but is unknown on the mainland. The Royal Tomb 
at Isopata near Knossos, has an inscription that may or may not refer 
to the burial it is short, and in Linear A, which is still undeciphered. 
Later Mycenaean tombs sometimes had gravestones or markers, in one 
case with painted pictures, but I know none inscribed. Were there 
painted tomb-inscriptions? None are known, and on such a monu- 
ment as the "Treasury of Atreus" [see Plate 1] with its carved fagade 
[now in the British Museum], one would rather expect such inscrip- 
tions (if they ever existed) to be carved on the stone too, In Homer 
there is talk of raising barrows, or even a stone) to mark the site of a 
tomb, but apparently only as a landmark to be identified orally, I 

Since the experts can give no definite answer, may I put 
forward two possible answers to this question? Neither has 
any firm historical or archaeological backing, and is offered 
only as a theory. The first was suggested to me by Ancient 

The Egyptians had a system of writing before 3000 B.C., yet 
we do not find anything approaching a literature until a thou- 
sand years later. Egyptian writing was invented for a purely 
utilitarian purpose. It was a working tool, a means by which 
a man could communicate with others without having to meet 
and talk with them; a means of keeping accounts and records. 
Later the Egyptians, like all civilized and articulate people, 
discovered that words have a magic of their own, and there 
then arose writers of stories and romances who used language 

8 Evans discovered two forms of writing at Knossos, "Linear A," the earli- 
est, and "Linear B," a later form which also appears on the mainland. It is this 
form which has been partially deciphered by Ventris (see Appendix 4< B"). 

< . 9 9 


for no other purpose than to give pleasure. Thus the 
developed into an art. 

It is probable that the Mycenaeans adopted writing for the 
same practical purpose, as a means of keeping records and 
accounts a purely mechanical device in which the aristocracy 
would not be interested; a useful tool for merchants, trades- 
men, clerks and suchlike, but beneath the dignity of kings and 

It seems certain that the epic poems upon which Homer 
based his Iliad and Odyssey were originally recited Homer 
mentions bards, but not writers. It appears to me more than 
probable that the Mycenaean princes, sitting in their halls of 
state after a banquet, liked to hear the deeds of their ancestors 
sung or recited in epic verse, but that no one would think of 
committing these poems to writing, because there was no need 
to do so. The bards had prodigious memories. Writing was 
for the "rude mechanicals." 

If this theory is valid, then it is unlikely that any written 
literature of the Mycenaean period will ever be found, and 
that future generations will still have to rely, as we do, on the 
poems of Homer for any impression of how the Mycenaeans 
thought and felt. 

But there remains the question: "Why did not the Mycen- 
aeans at least record the names and achievements of their kings 
in their tombs, as did the peoples of other ancient civiliza- 
tions?" This brings me to my alternative theory, that the 
anonymity of Mycenaean royalty may have been due to a reli- 
gious taboo. 

Anthropologists tell us that among primitive tribes to this 
day taboos exist which forbid the mention of a chief's name. 
The same reluctance occurs in Ancient Egypt. The Pharaoh 
was rarely referred to by his actual name. He was called "One" 
or "the Ruler" or his identity was disguised under such names 
as "the Bull" or "the Hawk." In The Story of Sinuhe the writer 
describes the death of Amenemhat as follows: 

In the year 30, on the ninth day of the third month of the Inun- 
dation, the god entered his horizon. 


r, admittedly, he says, "King Amenemhat flew away 
to heaven," and names his successor, Sesostris, but immediately 
afterwards he refers to the young Prince as "the Hawk" who 
"flew away with his henchmen/' 

However, The Story of Sinuhe is a sophisticated work 
dating from the Twelfth Dynasty, in the middle period of 
Egyptian history, more than a thousand years after civilization 
began in the Nile Valley. Perhaps in much earlier times the 
name of the king could not be spoken, just as members of 
primitive African tribes today are forbidden to mention the 
name of their chief. This religious taboo may be due to the 
fact that names have a magical significance to primitive people. 
The name was a part of the man, and just as in Siam, two hundred 
years ago, anyone touching the king's body was punished by 
death, so no common man was permitted to speak the sacred 

If this prohibition applied to the Mycenaeans, it would ex- 
plain why the names of their kings were never inscribed on their 
tombs, and why the walls of Mycenaean and Minoan Palaces, 
though adorned with frescoes depicting human beings, are void 
of written texts. 

On the whole, however, I think it is more likely that the 
absence of tomb inscriptions, written histories and written 
poems was due to the fact that, at the time of which we are 
speaking from about 1500 to 1100 B.C. writing was a purely 
utilitarian device, and that Mycenaean poet-historians memo- 
rized their poems and transmitted them orally from generation 
to generation. 



IN Chapter Ten I described Sir Arthur Evans's discovery at 
Knossos of "whole deposits, entire or fragmentary, of clay 
tablets analogous to the Babylonian but with inscriptions in the 
prehistoric script of Crete. I must have about seven hundred 
pieces by now. It is extremely satisfactory," he wrote, "as it is 
what I came to Crete to find. . . ." 

It was what he had come to find, but although he and other 
scholars wrestled for more than thirty years with the decipher- 
ment of the mysterious writing, they were able only to estab- 
lish that the tablets represented inventories; that there was a 
numerical system; and that some of the objects listed in the 
inventories could be identified as chariots, horses, men and 
women from the "pictographs" which appeared at the end of 
certain lines. All attempts to ascertain the grammatical basis 
of the language if it had one failed. 

But while this book was being written, the script or rather 
one form of it was at last yielding its secrets, and now, more 
than fifty years after Evans discovered the "Linear B" tablets, 
they can be partially read. Moreover, it seems fairly certain 
that the language in which they were written was an early 
form of Greek. 

In the first volume of his Scripta Minoa Evans showed that 
there were three stages of writing in Crete. First there were 
hieroglyphs, represented on the early engraved seal stones. Then 
came a more cursive form of writing, which he called "Linear A." 
Finally came a third script, a modified form of the "Linear A" 
which Evans called "Linear B." This was the commonest 
form, and it was in use at the time of the destruction of Knossos. 
The same form of writing has been found at places on the main- 



land, such as Mycenae and Pylos. It is this "Linear B"' script 
which has been partially deciphered, largely through the efforts 
of the late Michael Ventris. Ventris was not an archaeologist, nor 
even a professional philologist. He was, in fact, an architect. 

In 1935, the British School at Athens was celebrating its 
fiftieth anniversary with an exhibition at Burlington House, 
London. Among the speakers was Sir Arthur Evans, then in his 
eighty-fourth year. And among the audience was a thirteen-year- 
old schoolboy studying classics at Stowe. The boy Michael 
Ventris heard Sir Arthur say that the tablets he had discovered 
thirty-five years before still challenged decipherment. Ventris 
was intrigued, and decided to make the subject his hobby. 
From that day on, he began to struggle with the problem, but 
it was to take him seventeen years to solve. 

Why did the writing take so long to decipher? Largely be- 
cause there was no bilingual clue such as that provided by the 
Rosetta Stone, which set Egyptologists on the road to under- 
standing the hieroglyphs. Champollion and other philologists 
were able to decipher the writing of the Ancient Egyptians 
because (a) there existed, on the Rosetta Stone, the same in- 
scription written in both Ancient Egyptian and Greek, and 
(b) because elements of the ancient language still survived in 
the Coptic tongue. The Behistun Rock supplied the same kind 
of bilingual clue for the cuneiform writing of Babylonia. No 
such help was provided for those who tried to wrest the secret 
of the Minoan script from the baked-clay tablets found in the 
Palace of King Minos. The symbols bore no relation to any 
known form of writing. In vain archaeologists sought for a 
billingual clue such as a bill of lading written in Minoan and 
Greek. But no such aid has appeared, even today. How, then, 
has the feat been accomplished? 

If no bilingual clue exists, there are other ways in which 
one can attempt to decipher an unknown language. As Ventris 
himself said: 

Since 1802, when Grotefend first correctly read part of the Old 
Persian syllabary, the basic techniques necessary to a successful de- 
cipherment have been tested and developed on many other initially 
unreadable scripts. Each operation needs to be planned in three 

_,_. 9 9 


phases; an exhaustive analysis of the signs, words and contexts in all 
the available inscriptions, designed to extract every possible clue as 
to the spelling system, meaning and language structure; an experi- 
mental substitution of phonetic values to give possible words and in- 
flections in a known or postulated language; and a decisive check, 
preferably with the aid of virgin material, to ensure that the apparent 
results are not due to fantasy, coincidence or circular reasoning. 1 

Let us consider the first phase of the operation: the "ex- 
haustive analysis of the signs, words and contexts." If sufficient 
material exists, one can begin to sort out and classify the words 
and signs, to notice how many times the same group of signs 
occurs, and how often and in what way a word beginning with 
the same group of signs has varying endings. For instance, if 
the reader was confronted with a book written in English, 
without knowing the language or any related tongue, he might 
notice that the words AND and THE occurred more often than any 
others, and that sometimes one found a word beginning with 
the signs G-R-OW which ended in different ways, e.g., GROW . . . 
GROwing . . . GROwn. Looking further he might find another 
word containing some, but not all, of the same signs, but which 
used the same endings as in the first group of words, e.g. THROW 
. . . THROwmg . . . THROwn. Then he might have a setback 
on finding that whereas ROW and Rowing seemed to be governed 
by the same grammatical rules, the third form of the word was 
not Rown but Rowed. In this way, if he had enough material 
and sufficient patience, skill and application, he might be able 
to hazard a guess at the grammar, and then, by comparing it 
with that of known languages, see if there was any possible 
link. Did the thing work, or not? 

This is only one example of the ways in which the script 
might be attacked. Another would be to find out the total 
number of symbols used. If, for example, there were only 
twenty-four signs, as in Greek, the language would probably 
be alphabetical, each sign representing a consonant or a vowel 
(though some ancient languages, such as Egyptian, had no 
signs for vowel sounds). On the other hand, if there were, 
say, seventy or eighty signs, the language would probably be 
syllabic, each symbol having the value of a consonant plus a 

1 Antiquity, Vol. XXVII, December, 1953. 


vowel, e.g., one sign for TA, another for TO, a third for TE, and 
so on. A number of syllabic writing systems, e.g., Hittite and 
Cypriote, have managed to make do with between sixty and 
eighty signs. 

At the outset Ventris was handicapped by lack of material. 
"When I started," he told me, "only 142 out of the 2,846 tablets 
( and fragments of tablets ) found by Evans had been published. 
The most useful work on the material was by Sundwall, a Finnish 
scholar, who had access to more tablets than other people. But 
we made slow progress/' 

Then, in 1939, Professor Blegen, of the University of Cin- 
cinnati, began to excavate at Pylos, in the Western Pelopon- 
nese, the traditional home of Nestor, the aged counsellor of 
the Greeks before Troy. He found a palatial Mycenaean building 
in which lay some six hundred tablets in the "Linear B" script. 
These tablets, published in 1951, showed that though the script 
ceased in use at Knossos after the sack of 1400 B.C., it was still 
in use two hundred years later on the mainland. Then, in 1952, 
Sir John Myres, Evans's lifelong friend, published Scripta Minoa, 
Volume Two, which Evans had left unfinished at his death. This 
volume contained all the "Linear B" tablets found at Knossos, 
and, with the Pylos tablets, provided Ventris with valuable new 

By 1940 it was already generally recognized that the script 
contained some seventy common signs for sound values, apart 
from the "ideograms" the small pictorial signs which indicated 
such objects as chariots, swords, horses, men and women. The 
script was therefore clearly a "syllabary," like modern Japanese 
and the Hittite heiroglyphs. 

The Pylos tablets discovered by Blegen had been deposited 
in the Bank of Athens, but Blegen had had them photographed, 
and one of his students, Emmett L, Bennett Jr., studied the 
tablets and helped to prepare them for publication. In 1947, 
after his return from cryptographer service in the U.S. Forces, 
he submitted a thesis on the tablets. He examined the shapes 
of the signs in a more methodical way than Evans. In 1940 
Ventris wrote an article in The American Journal of Archaeology 
suggesting that the language might be like Etruscan, and that 
the Etruscans may have spoken an Aegean language. Working 


on this hypothesis, he tried to decipher the script, but his theory 
was based on too small a part of the material, and came to 
nothing. Meanwhile, between 1944 and 1950, the late Dr. Alice 
Kober of Brooklyn suggested that by looking at the Knossian 
tablets which had been published one could see that the script 
had a certain grammatical pattern. She suggested also that by 
studying the order of the words and how they changed, e.g., 
by noting inflections and word endings, one might get at the 
grammar even without knowing the pronunciation. 

Ventris, in the meantime, had joined the Royal Air Force 
and become a navigator in Bomber Command. It is typical of 
him that he chose to be a navigator rather than a pilot, because 
the mathematical problems involved in navigating an aircraft 
seemed to offer more interest than "being a driver." Then the 
war ended and he was able to take up his hobby again, devoting 
to it all the time he could spare from his profession of architect. 

Up to 1950, it was generally assumed that the "Linear B" 
script contained a non-Greek language, like "Linear A" (1700- 
1450 B.C.). Evans thought that "Linear B" had been developed 
from "Linear A" when the Knossos ruler centralized the govern- 
ment of the island in his Palace, and overhauled its administrative 
methods. It remained the same language, Evans believed, but 
better written. But the young American scholar, Emmett L. 
Bennett, thought differently. He made a close study of the two 
scripts and, in 1950, published an article pointing out certain 
vital differences. The signs looked the same, but the words were 
different. To make this clearer, at the risk of oversimplification, 
imagine a Martian studying two manuscripts, one in English, 
the other in German, but both using the Latin alphabet. Not 
knowing the languages, and seeing that the same signs were used 
to write it, he might at first think that both manuscripts were 
written in the same language. Only after careful study would he 
discover that they were two different languages using the same 

This vital discovery led to a new approach to the "Linear 
B" script. "Linear A," the earlier form, was used in Crete 
over many centuries. Then suddenly one finds an entirely 
new system, though using the same signs, and this is used not 
only in Crete at the end of the Late Minoan Period, but also 


continues on the mainland for centuries afterwards. Wace and 
other archaeologists believed that at this period mainland in- 
fluence in Knossos was strong; that, in fact, the Mycenaeans, 
who were of Greek stock, may have conquered Knossos. 
Could the "Linear B" script have been an archaic form of Greek, 
using the Minoan syllabary? This possibility had already occurred 
to Ventris, and he corresponded with Bennett in order to test his 
theory. He was on the brink of an important discovery. 

Blegen's six hundred Pylos tablets, which had been pub- 
lished in 1951, furnished him with new material, and there was 
also Myres's Scripta Minoa, Volume Two, which came out 
later. The latter volume, based on Evans's fifty-year-old material, 
might possibly contain errors, so Emmett L. Bennett went out 
to Herakleion in Crete to check up on the originals in the 
Museum. The two young scholars kept in touch, and between 
the spring of 1951 and 1952 Ventris worked away at the script, 
testing and discarding theories, and every month taking a 
particular line of inquiry. At regular intervals he would send 
out copies of his investigations and conclusions, so that other 
scholars could study and comment on them. 

In May, 1952, Professor Blegen was back at Pylos, excavating 
the Palace of Nestor. He explored the other end of the Archive 
Room in which he had found the six hundred tablets in 1939. To 
his delight another four hundred came to light, including the 
missing halves of some already dug up in 1939. They were en- 
trusted to Bennett to be prepared for publication, and the 
contents of a few of them were made known to Ventris and 
other scholars in early 1954. 

A complete explanation of Ventris's methods is outside the 
scope of this book, and readers who wish to study the subject 
in greater detail should read the presentation of his theory 
in die Documents in Mycenaean Greek which he and John 
Chadwick, a Cambridge philologist, published in 1957. But, 
briefly, he built up a huge dossier which showed, for example, 
how many times a certain sign occurred, how many times it 
occurred at the end of a word, how many times in the middle, 
how many times at the beginning, etc. Then he and other scholars 
began a long process of analysis and gradually began to recognize 
the apparent grammatical structure of the ancient language, and 

_ 9 9 


the relative frequence and interrelationships of the phonetic 
signs with which it was written. Ventris wrote: 

Once the values of a syllabary are known, its signs can be most 
conveniently set out in the form of a chequerboard "grid" on which 
the vertical columns each contain a single vowel, and the horizontal 
lines a single consonant. A vital part of the analysis consisted in ar- 
ranging the signs as far as possible in their correct pattern before any 
phonetic values were tried out; this was made possible by clear evi- 
dence that certain groups of signs shared the same vowel, (e.g. no ro 
to), others the same consonant (e.g. wa we wi too). 

There were also several pairs of spellings which alternated 
in such a way as to suggest masculine and feminine forms of 
the same word, and Dr. Kober had detected the presence of 
inflectional endings. 

During the fifteen months following Bennett's publication 
of the Pylos tablets, Ventris was able to form some idea of the 
grammatical structure of the "Linear B" language, and to fix the 
relative positions of many of the signs on his "grid" (see 
illustration on page 217). 

"There now seemed to be," he wrote in his cautious 
scholar's way, "sufficient material for a reasonably controlled 
experiment in allotting phonetic values." 

Thus, after years of preliminary research, classification and 
analysis, he had reached the second phase of the operation: 
"an experimental substitution of phonetic values to give pos- 
sible words and inflections in a known or postulated language." 

"Previous attempts at decipherment," wrote Ventris, "had 
all relied, for fixing of key phonetic values, on supposed re- 
semblances between 'Linear B' signs and those of the classical 
Cypriote Syllabary, whose values are known." 

What was this "Cypriote Syllabary"? Mr. R. D. Barnett, 
Keeper of Western Asiatic Antiquities of the British Museum, 

It has been thought for some time that the actual language of 
Homeric times was probably nearest to the archaic dialects which still 
survived in Classical times, isolated by later Dorian and Ionic inva- 
sions and restricted to Cyprus and, on the mainland, to the mountain 
































district of Arcadia. This view is now likely to receive unhoped-for 
confirmation. When the Dorian and Ionian invasions came at the be- 
ginning of the Iron Age, the Mycenaean civilization collapsed and 
with it all recollection of the arts of writing, except for the memory of 
the tablet inscribed with "baleful signs" which Proitus gave to Bellero- 
phon to carry to the King of Lycia, which was really a request to have 
him killed. 

This theory that the "Linear B" script might be related 
to the Cypriote Syllabary, though attractive, cannot yet be 
proved. The syllabary shows few superficial resemblances to 
either "Linear A" or "B," except in the shapes of some of the 
elementary signs. "The differences," wrote Ventris, "might be 
due to a reduction in size and a more 'cuneiform' writing 
technique, but they make parallels between 'Linear B' and the 
classical Cypriote Syllabary almost impossible to trace. It is 
clear that the values of the 'Linear B* signs must be fixed on 
internal evidence, and to satisfy the 'grid' and inflexions already 
found, without taking into account any other doubtfully related 
writing systems [my italics]/' 

Ventris decided to "go it alone" and turned to the work of 
Alice Kober, who had worked on the "Linear B" script during 
the war, and who had recognized certain inflections. Among 
the words which she had studied, there was a consistent series 
which recurred in different contexts, in three different forms. Dr. 
Kober called these words "paradigms" and Ventris, "triplets." 
These, Ventris thought, were possibly the names of the chief 
Cretan cities, together with their corresponding adjectives. 

Now it is characteristic of most languages [he wrote], when sylla- 
bically written, that the signs for the plain vowels A-E-I-O-U are ex- 
ceptionally common in an initial position; and the first sign of the 
first "triplet" suggested the value A to Kober and Ktistopoulos. The 
decisive step was to identify the first words with Amnissos, and to 
substitute values which would turn the others into Knossos, Tylissos, 
Phaestos, and Lyktos: 

A-mi-ni-so Ko-no-so Tu-ri-so Pa-i-to Ru-ki-to 

A-mi-ni-si-jo Ko-no-si-jo Tu-ri-si-jo Pa-i-ti-jo Ru-ki-ti-jo 
A-mi-ni-si-ja Ko-no-si-ja Tu-ri-$i-ja Pa-i-ti-ja Ru-ki-ti-ja 


Since about 50 signs had already been assigned to their places on 
the "grid" the substitutions in these five words automatically fixed most 
of them as well, by a kind of chain reaction. If these names were an 
illusion, then the resulting system of values must inevitably be a com- 
pletely dislocated jumble, with which no further sense could be ex- 
tracted from the texts by any sort of jugglery. 2 

But they did not become a "dislocated jumble." When 
Ventris began to apply the experimental phonetic values to the 
pattern of declensions which he had already analyzed, he found 
to his surprise that "these fell into line, not merely with the 
known Greek system of declensions, but specifically with its 
most archaic forms as deduced from Homeric and other dia- 

Ventris was now at the third stage of the operation, a "deci- 
sive check, preferably with the aid of virgin material, to ensure 
that the apparent results are not due to fantasy, coincidence 
or circular reasoning." At first, like Evans and other scholars, 
he had assumed that the unknown language was Minoan, and 
that it had no connection with Greek or any other known lan- 
guage. But now, by attributing, experimentally, Greek values 
to the signs, he began to realize that the language could be 
read as an archaic form of Greek, and the similarities occurred 
too often to be mere coincidences. 

For example, here is one tablet from Pylos. 

^ X Y 

, Af f T, 
' TV, 1 , 1 , 1 4' 

If one attributes to the signs the values given them by 
Ventris this could read, in Greek: 

Hicreia echei-que, euchetoi-que etonion echeen theon, ktoinoo- 
chons-de ktionaon kekeimenaon onata echeen. (Tossonde spermo;) 
WHEAT 3-9-3." 

f Ventris: "Greek Records in the Minoan Script," Antiquity, Vol. XXVII, 
December, 1953. 

< .. 9 9 


which in English would read: 

This the priestess holds, and solemnly declares that the god has 
the true ownership, but the plot-holders the enjoyment, of the plots in 
which it is laid out. (So much seed) 3 5 %o units. 

Another tablet, from the armory of Knossos, could read: 

Hiquia, phoinikia harrarmostemena, araruia haniaphi; wirinios 
"o-po-qo" keraiaphi opii(staP) iaphi, ou-que "pte-no"; CHARIOT 1. 

which in English would read: 

Horse-vehicle, painted red, with bodywork fitted, supplied with 
reins; the rail(?) of wild-fig-wood with jointing of horn; and the pie-no 
is missing; 1 CHARIOT. 

In decipherment the real test is simple; does it make sense? 
It appears to. For instance there is an inventory of swords, 
recognizable from a pictogram which clearly illustrates this 
weapon. It ends with a number and the "total" to-sa pa-ka-na 
(so many swords). The classical Greek equivalent for this 
would be tossa phasgana, which is good Greek and makes sense. 
'There is another tablet with a pictogram representing chariot 
wheels. The accompanying description, read with the values 
Ventris ascribes to it, describes the wheels as kakodeta or 
kakia "bound with bronze" or "brazen." The thing appears to 

Most remarkable of all, two tablets from Knossos and one 
from Pylos, deciphered by the Ventris system, carry the names 
of Greek gods: "Lady Athena," Enyalios (an old name for 
Ares), Pan, Poseidon, Zeus, Hera, and "The Lady." 

John Chadwick, another British scholar who worked with 
Ventris, points out that "it is certainly surprising to find names 
which can be read as Hector and Achilles (but not Nestor or 
Minos). . . ." 

However, all the above examples were taken from the 
earlier Evans and Blegen "digs." They did not fall into that 
category of "virgin material" previously unknown, which Ventris 
needed for his "decisive check." But in 1952 this was forthcoming. 
A tablet was found at Pylos in that year which has almost the 


effect of a bilingual. On it are drawings of tripods and vases. 
Ventris, reading the signs which accompany the picture, gave 
them the values ti-ri-po-de unmistakably the Greek word for 
tripods. And the rest of the tablet is in the same strain, proving 
the decipherment to be on the right lines. Other tablets yielded 
similarly interesting results. 

Ventris himself was very modest about his achievement. At 
the end of his article in Antiquity he wrote cautiously: 

There is some doubt whether the present "Linear B" material is 
large enough for the decisive proof of a solution, but a substantial 
check is promised by the still unpublished Pylos tablets found by 
Blegen in 1952 and 1953. At all events, I do not anticipate serious 
competition from any rival decipherment not out of conceit, but be- 
cause of this unfair advantage; if the tablets are written in Greek, they 
can hardly be explained otherwise than we have proposed; but if they 
are not, their language is probably in the existing circumstances un- 

R. D. Barnett, Keeper of Western Asiatic Antiquities at 
the British Museum, writing about Ventris's achievement, hit on 
the happy phrase "The Everest of Greek Archaeology"; for such 
it truly is. To the layman, the disappointing fact is that now, 
when the mysterious script seems to have been deciphered, all 
that is revealed are, as Evans and others suspected, mere inven- 
tories. It is as if some future excavator, searching for the clue 
to the unknown English language, and having heard of a great 
poet named Shakespeare, had found somebody's laundry bill. 

But the important fact is that (assuming that Ventris was 
right in his conclusions) scholars now have the key to the 
Minoan-Mycenaean writing, should any more interesting inscrip- 
tions turn up. It is amazing that a brillant and gifted people, 
whose achievements are immortalized in the epic poems of 
Homer which may indeed be based on oral poetry, handed 
down from that remote age have left no written documents 
apart from these inventories. Their contemporaries, the Egypt- 
ians, have left us tomb inscriptions, historical annals, stories, 
poems and letters. So have the people of the Euphrates Valley. 
The Mycenaeans must have been in touch with these contem- 
porary civilizations; objects found in their cities prove that. But 
they have left us no written record of their history save what 


survives in the poems of Homer, which were first set down in 
writing many centuries after the last Achaean King ruled from 

Homer mentions writing only once. There is a passage in the 
Iliad, Book VI, in which Glaucus, the son of Hippolochus, chal- 
lenges Diomedes "of the loud war-cry" to single combat. In one 
of those long, discursive orations with which the Homeric heroes 
address each other before proceeding to battle, Diomedes asks 
if Glaucus is a man or a god in disguise, since, he says, "I am 
not a man to fight against the gods of Heaven. . . . But if you 
are one of us mortals who plough the earth for food, come on, 
and you will meet your doom the sooner." 

Glaucus, to reassure him, gives him a long piece of family 
history. He is descended, he says, from the redoubtable Bellero- 
phon, son of Glaucus and grandson of Sisyphus "as cunning a 
rogue as ever there was." Bellerophon was subject to King 
Proetus, a far more powerful nobleman than himself. Queen 
Anteia, the wife of Proetus, fell in love with the handsome youth 
"who was endowed with every manly grace, and begged him to 
satisfy her passion in secret. But Bellerophon was a man of sound 
principles, and refused/* 

Whereupon, like Potiphar's wife, the Queen told her hus- 
band that Bellerophon had tried to ravish her, and urged Proetus 
to kill him, or be killed himself. Proetus dared not put Bellero- 
phon to death, so he sent him to Lycia, and it is here that Homer 
mentions writing for the first and only time: 

... he packed him off to Lycia with sinister credentials from 
himself. He gave him a folded tablet on which he had traced a number 
of devices with a deadly meaning, and told him to hand them to his 
father-in-law, the Lycian King, and thus ensure his own death. 

The Lycian King gives Bellerophon a number of arduous and 
dangerous tasks, hoping he will be killed, but each time the 
young man triumphs, even when the King sets an ambush for him. 

He picked the best men in all Lycia and stationed them in am- 
bush. Not one of them came home. The incomparable Bellerophon 
killed them all. In the end the King realized that he was a true son of 
the Gods. 


Now until recently this passage in the Iliad was regarded as 
a later interpolation, but, says Stubbings: 

There is no reason why it should not refer to Minoan or Myce- 
naean script, and I think myself that it does. The writing materials are 
not identifiable from what little is said. Little is yet known of Myce- 
naean contacts with Lycia in Asia Minor, though I hope one day 
[there] will be, even though we can hardly expect to find the actual 
death-warrant for Bellerophon which Homer alludes to. 

It is interesting to note, moreover, that Bellerophon belongs 
to an earlier generation of heroes, to be dated definitely earlier 
than the known examples of "Linear B." 

So the torch is handed on; from Schliemann to Evans; from 
Evans to Ventris and Papadimitriou; from Ventris and Papadi- 
mitriou to whom? For, though a corner has been turned and 
fresh vistas spring to view, the end is far from being in sight. 
Much more work on the tablets will be needed; in fact the work 
has only begun. And there still remains the "Linear A" script, 
which may be truly Minoan and may baffle all attempts at de- 
cipherment for years to come. 

To conclude, let us take a forward look and consider the 
problems and possibilities arising from these new discoveries. It 
now appears very possible that people of Greek stock were domi- 
nant at Knossos at the close of the Late Minoan Period. Professor 
Wace has long believed that in Late Minoan II (1500-1400 B.C.) 
Knossos was under mainland influence. His case grows stronger 
with the evidence that Greek was written there at that time. In 
a letter to Antiquittj published in March of this year he wrote: 

For some time past several of us have been pointing out that in 
L.M. II at Knossos (but not in the rest of Crete) there are features 
which are maintained; beehive tombs, throne-rooms, the Palace Style, 
alabastra, imitations of Ephyraean pots, and so on. Also the Knossian 
frescoes, as Luisa Banti points out, agree with the mainland more than 
with the rest of Crete. Now Knossos alone in Crete has the "Linear 
B" script, and it is known on tablets at Pylos and Mycenae and on pots 
from Thebes, Mycenae, Orchomenos, Tiryns and Eleusis. "Linear B" 
is more spread on the mainland than in Crete. "Linear B" is Greek. 
So at Knossos in L.M. II there were Greeks. The Mycenaeans were 


Greeks; they were the Middle Helladic people developed after con- 
tact with the Minoan civilization and the Near East in Late Helladic 
I, or rather from just before the end of Middle Helladic through Late 
Helladic I. Thus the decipherment of the tablets confirms the result 
already arrived at archaeologically. 

There is another aspect. The earliest known date for the 
Phoenician alphabet as adapted by the Greeks is the eighth 
century B.C. Historians used to believe that after the Dorian in- 
vasion there was a Dark Age during which the Greeks were 
illiterate. Now we know that the "Linear B" Mycenaean script 
was in use down to the fall of Pylos, which presumably came 
towards the end of the Bronze Age. Wace poses the question, "Is 
it likely that such an inventive, intelligent and wide-awake peo- 
ple as the Greeks would ever have stopped reading and writing 
once they had learned to do so?" 

Perhaps who knows the end of the "Linear B" script and 
the beginning of the Phoenician Alphabet may have overlapped? 

If only [writes Wace] we could find an inhabited site of the Late 
Bronze to Early Bronze Age to Early Iron Age period we might find 
tablets in it. All our knowledge at this period is from tombs. . . . 

A tragic shadow has been thrown over these researches by 
the death of Vcntris in an automobile accident in 1956. He was 
only thirty -four when he died. But other hands have taken up the 
torch. The crying need now is for more documents from Pylos, 
Mycenae and other sites, and an Early Iron Age inhabited site, 
in order to find out what the script and language situation was at 
that time. The so-called Dark Age, thought Wace, is dark only to 

We are on the eve of great developments. We can no longer speak 
of pre-Hellenic Greece, because from 2,000 B.C. onwards the Greeks 
were in Greece, and Mycenaean art is the first great manifestation of 
Greek art. . . . One would like to see applied to the Dorian invasion 
the same methods of study and the same archaeological technique as 
have thrown so much light upon the arrival in Britain of the Anglo- 
Saxons and upon our own origins: the two problems have much in 


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Bible, The. 

Blegen, Carl W., etc.: Troy, Vol. 1, parts 1 & 2 (Published for the Uni- 
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Breasted. Ancient Records of Egypt. 

British School at Athens No. 2. Session, 1895-96 (Macmillan). 
Bury, J. B. History of Greece, 1951 (Macmillan). 
Cornhill Magazine, Vol. XIV January-June, 1903 (Smith, Elder & 

Courtney, W. L. Fortnightly Review, Vol. LXXXIV, July-December, 

1908 (Chapman & Hall). 

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Evans, Jflan. Time and Chance, 1943 (Longmans, Green) . 
Forsdyke, E. J. Minoan Art. British Academy Vol. XV (Humphrey 

Frazer, Sir J. G. Apollodorus The Loeb Classical Library II, 1946 

Glotz, G. The Aegean Civilization, 1925 (Kegan Paul, Trench, Triib- 


Grote, G. History of Greece, Vol. I (J. M. Dent). 
Hall, H. R. The Civilization of Greece in the Bronze Age. The Rhind 

Lectures, 1923 (Methuen). 

Hawes, B. M. & H. W. Crete, the Forerunner of Greece. 
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Homer. The Odyssey (Translated by E. V. Rieu. Penguin). 
Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 32, 1912 (Macmillan). 
Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 33, 1913 (Macmillan). 
Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 49, 1929 (Macmillan). 
Karo. The Shaft Graves. 

Lang, A. The World of Homer, 1910 (Longmans, Green). 
Leaf, W. A Study in Homeric Geography, 1912 (Macmillan). 
Leaf, W. Homer and History, 1915 (Macmillan). 
Leaf, W. Troy, 1912. 



Lorimer, H. L, Homer and the Monuments, 1950 (Macmillan). 

Ludwig, E. Schliemann of Troy, 1931 (Putnam). 

Murray, G. Agamemnon (George Allen & Unwin). 

Murray, G. The Rise of the Greek Epic, 1924 (Clarendon Press). 

Myres, Sir John Linton. Who Were the Greeks? 1930 (University of 

California Press, Berkeley, California). 
Newbolt, Henry, ed. Monthly Review, 2 January-March, 1901 (John 


Nilscon, M. P. Homer and Mycenae, 1933 (Methuen). 
Nilsson, M. P. The Minoan and Mycenaean Religion. 
Ovid. The Heroides, etc., translated by Henry Y. Riley, 1852 (H. G. 

Ovid. The Metamorphoses, translated by John Benson Rose, (Whit- 

Ovid. The Metamorphoses, translated by Arthur Golding, edited by 

W. H. D. Rouse, 1904 (De La More Press). 

Rhys, Carpenter. Folk Tale, Fiction and Songs in the Homeric Epics. 

Sather Classical Lectures, Vol. 20, 1946 (University of California 

Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles). 

Rose, H. J. A Handbook of Greek Literature (Methuen), 1934. 
Schliemann, H. Ilios City and County of the Trojans. 
Schliemann, H. Trojan Antiquities. 

Schliemann, H. Mycenae and Tiryns (John Murray), 1878. 
Schliemann, H. Tiryns. 

Schuchhardt, C. Schliemann s Excavations, 1891 (Macmillan). 
Symposium of the Homeric Problem (in American Journal of Archae- 

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Tsountas and Manatt. The Mycenean Age. 
Thucydides. History, translated by Crawley (Dent). 
Wace, Alan. Mycenae (Oxford University Press). 
Woodhouse, W. J. The Composition of Homer's Odyssey, 1930 (Clar- 

endon Press). 


Achilles, King of the Myrmidons, 8, Andromache, 72 

10, 11-12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 31, Ankershagen, 22, 23, 29, 77, 81 
53, 67, 206, 220 

Acrocorinthus, 4 

Adreste, 17 

Anteia, 222 

Antiquarians, Society of, 171 

Antiquity, 212, 219, 221, 223 

Aegean Sea, 62, 83, 89, 102, 118, Antoriiou, Gregorios, 160 


Islands of, 19, 98, 138, 186, 188 
Aegeum, Mount, 104 
Aegeus, 105, 106 
Aegina, 12 
Aegisthos, 17, 18, 43, 45, 46, 54, 

202, 205 
Aeneas, 14, 20 
Aeschylus, 4, 18, 42, 43, 60 
Aetos, Mount, 73 

Aphrodite, 12, 14 
Apollo, 13, 38 
Apollodonis, 105, 106, 107 
Archaeological Institute, 72 
Archaeological Service, Director of, 

Archaeological Society of Greece, 

40, 46, 65, 196 
Archaeology of Crete, 133, 145, 167, 

183, 185 

Agamemnon, 4, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, Ares, 14, 220 

16, 17, 18, 40, 42, 43, 44, 45, 
46, 50, 51, 54, 55, 58, 59, 60, 
61, 62, 64, 66, 71, 72, 78, 140, 
193, 205, 206 
Tomb of, 64, 202 

Agamemnon, 18, 42 

Air Board, 169-170 

Akhiyava, King of, 190 

Akhnaten, Pharoah, 128, 136 

Alcandre, 17 

Alcinous, 165, 192 

Alcippe, 17 

Alexander the Great, 31, 34 

All Souls, Oxford, 87 

Amasis, 66 

Amelineau, 135 

Amenemhat, 209 

Amenophis III, 136, 162 

American Journal of Archaeology, 

Amnissus, 82 
River of, 102 

Amphidamas, 52 

Amsterdam, 19, 23, 24 

Annin, 137 

Amyclae, 68 

Amyntor, 52 

Anchises, 20 


Argolid, 55 
Argolis, Bay of, 61, 69 
Argos, 10, 12, 18, 61, 69 
Plain of, 5, 44, 61, 71 
Vale of, 55 

Ariadne, 98, 105, 106, 107, 183 
Artemis, 17 

Ashmole, Elias, 94, 98 
Ashmolean Museum, 90, 94r-90, 100, 

127, 146, 169, 178 
Asine, 12 
Athena, 220 

Temple of, 4 
Athene, 14 

Athens, 3, 4, 10, 28, 29, 38, 39, 72, 
73, 77, 78, 80, 82, 89, 105, 113, 
172, 176 
Acropolis, 6, 97 
Archibishop of, 28 
Museum at, 63, 64 
Shoe Lane, 97 
University Street, 73, 83 
Atreus, 13, 42, 43, 44, 46, 202, 

Atridae (sons of Atreus), 42, 44, 55, 


Autolycus, 52 
Aylesford, 95 



Balfour, Frank, 85 

Bali Dagh, 30, 31 

Balliol, Oxford, 93 

Banti, Luisa, 223 

Barnett, R. D., 216, 221 

Batum, 95 

Behistun Rock, 211 

Bellerophon, 222, 223 

Bennett, Emmett L., Jr., 213, 214, 


Berkshire, 143, 173 
Berlin, 25 
Bismarck, 77 
Black Sea, 167, 191 
Blegen, Professor, 76, 197, 199, 213, 

215, 220, 221 
Bodleian, 94 
Boghaz Keui, 190 
Bosanquet, Carr, 134 
Bounarbashi, 30, 31, 40, 75 
Boyd, Miss, 126, 133, 134 
Brasenose, Oxford, 85 

Breasted, , 122 

Briseis, 11, 16 

British Association, 130, 172, 184 

British Council, 160 

British Museum, 25, 45, 92, 169- 

170, 178 
British School of Archaeology, 

Athens, 66, 82, 99, 108, 109, 

112, 120, 131, 142, 175 
Broadway Tower, Worcestershire, 

85, 86 
Brood, 87 

Brown, Professor Baldwin, 148 
Burnouf, Emile, 75 

Cairo, 27 

California, 26, 84 

Camicus, 107 

Candia. See Herakleion 

Carter, Howard, 36, 49, 65 

Casa San Lazzaro (Arthur Evans's 

house in Ragusa), 91, 92, 176 
Cassandra, 43, 54 
Chadwick, John, 207, 215, 220 
Champollion, 211 
Charvati, 4, 60, 202 
Chaucer, 8 
Chiltern hills, 143 
Chryseis, 13 
Chryses, 13 

Circe, 9 

Cleonae, 12 

Clytemnestra, 17, 18, 43, 45, 46, 50, 

56, 202 

Cocalus, King, 107, 108 
Constantinople, 40 

Ministry at, 40, 47 
Coptic tongue, 211 
Corinth, 12, 44, 59 
Corybantes, 181 
Cos, 190 

Cotswold Hills, 85, 143 
Cretan Archaeological Society, 121 
Cretan Exploration Fund, 99, 119, 

Crete, the Forerunner of Greece, 

133, 134 
Crimea, 95 
Crivoscia, 91 
Cronos, 104, 120, 181 
Curzon, Lord, 169 
Cyclades, 79, 137, 188 
Cyclopes, 9, 13, 43, 58 
Cyllene, Mount, 11 
Cypriote Syllabary, 216, 218 
Cyprus, 122, 137, 138, 190 
Cythera, 52 

Dactyls, 118 

Daedalus the Smith, 105, 106, 107, 

161, 179 

Dardanelles, 11, 27, 41, 74 
da Vinci, Leonardo, 106 

Dawkins, , 134 

de Jong, Effie, 82-83, 89, 90, 103, 

108, 109 
de Jong, Piet, 82, 89-90, 102, 103, 

108, 109, 112, 155 ff., 173, 176 
Demeter, 104, 120 

Desptovitch, , 87 

Dia, 102, 103 

Dickinson, Harriet Ann, 84 

Dickinson, John, 84, 144 

Dictean Cave (birthplace of Zeus), 

98, 120-124 

Diomedes, 12, 14, 52, 222 
Dionysus, 106 
Documents in Mycenaean Greek, 

Doll, Christian, 112, 143, 144, 159, 




Dorian Invasion, 197 

Dorpfeld, Professor, 32, 63, 64, 70, 
71, 76, 77, 78, 97, 139, 192 

Dublin, 130 

Dynasties \ 

general explanation, 135 
pre-Dynastic Period, 135, 138, 184 
First Dynasty, 135 
Second Dynasty, 135 
Third-Tenth Dynasty, 136 
Eleventh-Thirteenth Dynasty, 136 
Seventeenth Dynasty, 161 
Eighteenth Dynasty, 66, 161 
Eighteenth-Twentieth Dynasty, 

Earth, 104, 146, 153 

Earth Mother, 121, 175 

Earth-Shaker, 120, 153 

Edinburgh, 130 

Egyptian Empires, 114, 130, 136, 

Egyptian Kingdoms, 135, 136, 139 

Egyptian tombs, 62, 114, 115 

Eileithyia, 82, 102, 103 

Eionae, 12 

Electra, 43 

Eicon, 52 

Elgin, Lord, 45 

Eleusis, 223 

Enneakrounos, fountain of, 97 

Epic Cycle, 10, 43 

Epidaurus, 12 

Erechtheum, 5 

Europa, 118, 121 

Eurymedon, 43, 54 

Evans, Sir Arthur, 57, 65, 70, 79, 81, 
82, 83 ff., 91 ff., 103, 108, 109, 
HOff., 120, 121, 122, 125 ff., 
131 ff., 141 ff., 169 ff., 174 ff., 
184, 185, 189, 192, 193, 194, 
196, 197, 198, 199, 210, 211, 
213, 214, 215, 219, 220, 221, 

Evans, Dr. Joan, 84, 86, 87, 89, 116, 
125 133 173 

Evans, John, 84, 85, 119, 125, 144 

Evans, Lewis (brother of Arthur), 
84, 87 

Evans, Lewis (great grandfather of 
Arthur), 84 

Evans, Margaret (Mrs. Arthur), 89, 
91, 93, 95, 97, 143, 176. See 
also Freeman 

Evans, Norman, 84, 86 

Fortnum, Drury, 94, 95 

Freeman [Edward Agustus], 88, 92, 

Freeman, Lancelot, 143 

Freeman, Margaret. See Evans, Mar- 

French School, Athens, 75, 98 

Furstenburg, 21 

Fyfe, Theodore, 112, 116, 125, 143 

Gabor, Bethlen, 94 

Galton, Francis, 84 

Gardner, Percy, 93 

George, Prince, of Greece, 99 

Gillieron, M., 127, 129, 155, 163, 


Gladstone, 71, 72, 86, 87 
Glasgow, 130 
Glaucus, 222 
Goebbels [Joseph], 6 
Goering, Hermann, 6 
Gortyn, 79 
Gortyna, 125 
Gottingen, 86 
Gournia, 126, 133, 134, 137, 185, 


Grote, George, 9, 19, 67 
Grotefend, , 211 

Hades, 9, 11, 102, 120 
Hadrian, Emperor, 29, 141-142, 155 
Hagia Triadha, 126, 133, 187 
Hagios Elias, Mount, 56, 61 
Halbherr, Professor Frederico, 98, 

121, 125, 126, 133, 134, 135, 

144, 147, 177, 182 
Hall, H. R., 177 
Halle, 80 
Hamburg, 23 
Harrow, 85 
"Harvester" vase, 133 
Hawes, B. M. and H. W., 133, 134 
Hazzidakis, Dr. Joseph, 121, 134 
Hector, 8, 13 ff., 31, 53, 67, 72, 220 
Helbig, Dr., 171 
Helen of Troy, 5, 8, 12, 13, 17, 37, 

38, 60, 78 

230 INDEX 

Hellas, 179 

Hellenic Society, 178 

Hellespont, 31 

Hephaestus, 16 

Hera, 102, 104, 120, 220 

Heracles, 70 

Herakleion (formerly Candia), 80, 
89, 98, 99, 102, 103, 108, 110, 
112, 125, 143, 176, 177, 179 
Cathedral, 175 
Cathedral Square, 180 
Museum, 127, 155, 215 

Herculaneum, 21 

Hermes, 102 

Hermione, 12 

Herodotus, 10 

Hertfordshire, 84 

Hesiod, 73, 104, 120 

Hestia, 104, 120 

Himmler, Heinrirh, 6 

Hippolochus, 222 

Hissarlik, 29, 30, 31, 40, 41, 76, 77, 

History of Greece (Bury), 187 

History of Greece (Grote), 9, 19 

Hodge, , 72 

Hogarth, D. G., 32, 99, 100, 120 ff,, 
125 ff., 131 ff., 135, 144 

Holmes (British Consul at Sara- 
jevo), 88 

Homer, 4, 7, 8 ff., 21, 23, 26, 30, 31, 
32, 34, 38, 40, 44, 51, 52, 60, 
67, 68, 69, 73, 77, 78, 79, 82, 89, 
90,93, 102, 103, 104, 111, 153, 
163, 166, 183, 189, 190, 191, 
192, 193, 195, 197, 198, 199, 
200, 205, 206, 207, 208, 221, 
222, 223 

Huxley, T. H., 85 

Hyle, 15 

Hyskos, 136 

Ibrahim Pasha, 41 

Icarus, 106, 118 

Ida, Mount (Crete), 98, 104, 180, 

183, 194 
Cave of, 124 

Ida, Mount (Greece), 19, 75 

Idomeneus, 79 

Iliad, 8ff., 30, 31, 38, 40, 51, 52, 
53, 54, 67, 68, 75, 153, 162, 
191, 201, 206, 208, 222, 223 

llios, 20, 75, 76 

lliou Melathron. See Palace of Ih'os 

Ilium. See Troy 

Indianapolis, 28 

Iphigeneia, 43 

Isopata, 171, 207 

Istanbul, 77 

Ithaca, 16, 27, 71, 73 


Jerrer, - 
Jerusalem, 27 

Joubin, , 98 

Jove, 42 

Jowett (Vice-Chancellor of Oxford 

University), 92, 94, 95 
Jukta, Mount, 99 

Kairatos (river), 110, 126 

Kalokairinos, Minos, 111 

Katherina, 25, 26, 27 

Keftiu, 114, 115, 138, 187 

Kenilworth, 56 

Kephala, mound of (at Knossos), 
80, 101, 110, 112, 115, 117, 
120, 152 

Kcramopoullos, , 65 

Kertch, 95 

Khios, 10 

Knossos, 61, 79, 80, 82, 99 ff., 108, 
110 ff., 120, 122, 125 ff., 141 ff., 
155 ff., 169, 172, 173, 177, 181, 
182, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 
189, 191, 192, 193, 197, 198, 
199, 207, 210, 213, 214, 215, 
220, 223 

Kober, Dr. Alice, 214, 216, 218 

Komo, 145 

Ktistopoulos, , 218 

Lacedaemon, 68 
Lasithi, 122, 123 

highlands of, 99 

Mountain (Dicte), 104, 120 
Lemnos, 106 
Lestrygonians, 9 
Libyan Sea, 184 

"Linear A" script, 207, 210, 214, 223 
"Linear B" script, 193, 197, 198, 

199, 200, 207, 210 ff. 
London, 25, 72, 80, 172, 178, 195 
London Photographic Society, 72 



Lubbock, , 84 

Lucian, 121 

Ludwig, Emil, 65, 74 

Luxor, 162 

tombs of, 156 
Lycastus, 79 
Lyctus, 79, 104 
Lysimachus, 34, 76 

Machaon, 51 

Mackenzie, Duncan, 100, 112, 116, 

120, 125, 144, 172, 177 
Macmillan, George, 119 
MacNeice, Louis, 8 
Magdalen, Oxford, 87 
Mallia, 137, 147, 187 

Palace at, 126 
Manchester Guardian, The, 87, 88, 


Manoli, , 108, 109, 114, 141, 155 

Marathon, battle of, 14 

M aril i at os, , 133 

Mases, 12 

Mecca, 27 

Mecklenburg, 7, 20, 24, 55 

Mcdinet Habou, 162 

Mediterranean Sea, 105, 108, 118, 

138, 188, 189 
Megara, 3 

Meincke, Louise, 22 
Mcincke, Minna, 22, 24, 29, 77 
Memphis, 136 
Menelaus, King of Sparta, 8, 12, 13, 

14, 17, 18, 42, 60, 183, 200 
Menes, 135, 184 
Meriones, 52 

Messara, 181, 182, 185, 194, 195 
Miletus, 79 

Minoan Goddess, 146, 148, 174, 183 
Minoan Periods 

Early, 130, 139, 185 
Middle, 130, 139, 152, 185, 186 
Third Middle, 153 
Late, 130, 139, 152, 187, 197, 223 
Minoan Priest King, 159, 167, 174, 

Minos, King, 79, 82, 98, 100, 105 ff., 

113, 116, 118, 121, 122, 124, 

126, 132, 147, 158, 168, 179, 

186, 192 
Minos, Bull of, 116, 129, 142, 147- 

148, 154, 174 

Minos, Palace of (Knossos), 82, 85, 

105, 112, 113, 118, 119, 120, 

126-127, 132, 133, 136, 137, 

142, 147, 148, 150, 151, 155 ff., 

172, 173, 175, 179, 192, 211 

Central Court, 158, 159, 174, 194 

Domestic quarters, 151, 156, 159 

Grand Staircase, 127, 159, 160, 

161, 164, 173 
Great Court, 159, 162 
Hall of the Colonnades, 163 

Hall of the Double Axes, 128, 

162, 163 

Megaron, 113, 163 
Northeast Bastion, 164 
North Portico, 156, 167 
Propylaeum Hall, 155, 156, 157 
Theatral Area, 167 

Throne Room, 115, 132, 146, 162, 
165, 166, 167 

Minotaur, the, 98, 105, 106, 117, 
118, 148, 168, 192 

Mirage Oriental, Le, 96 

Mokhlos, 185, 187 

Molus, 52 

Monthly Review, 121 

Moscow, 24 

Moses, 118, 121 

Mountains. See under individual 

Murray [Professor Gilbert], 14 

Murray [publisher], 71 

Mycenae, 4 ff., 8, 13, 17, 18, 27, 39, 
40, 41, 42 ff., 50 ff., 69, 70, 71, 
73, 76, 78, 79, 82, 83, 93, 99, 
110, 111, 112, 117, 118, 126, 
128, 135, 136, 138, 139, 158, 
173, 189, 190, 193, 196 ff., 211, 
223 224 
Acropolis, 44, 45, 46, 50, 53, 56, 

58, 64, 106, 190, 196, 197 
Citadel (see Acropolis), 198 
Lion Gate, 6, 44, 46, 47, 48, 58, 

59, 66, 67, 74, 93, 126, 190, 

Postern Gate, 59, 66 

Rooms of Palace, 60-61 

Underground cistern, 59 

Walls ("Cyclopean"), 13, 43, 45, 

46, 47, 58, 66 
Mycenae, 49, 71 
Mycenae and Tiryns, 49, 57, 193 

232 INDEX 

Myres, Sir John, 79, 84, 94, 96, 97, 
178, 213, 215 

Naples, 81 

Naquada, 185 

Nash Mills, Hemel Hempstead, 84 

Nauplia, 39, 69 

Nausikaa, 165, 191 

Naxos, 106 

Neiderhoffer, , 21 

Neith, 184 

Neptune, 38 

Nestor, 16, 17, 60, 213, 215, 220 

Cup of, 52, 67 
New Corinth, 3 
New University Museum, Oxford, 

Newberry, Professor Percy, 184 

Newton, , 92, 93 

Nile, 50 

Valley of, 98, 184 
Nilsson, Professor, 146 
Novum Ilium, 31 
Numa Pompilius, 118 

Odysseus, 8, 9, 16, 17, 52, 71, 82, 

102, 165, 191, 199 
Castle of (Ithaca), 27 
Odyssey, 8, 9, 11, 16, 17 ff., 27, 60, 

71, 77, 79, 82, 103, 191, 199, 

201, 208 
Oenopion, 106 
Olympiad, First, 9 
Omicron, 203 
Orchomenos, 13, 68, 76, 79, 139, 


Ormenus, 52 
Oxford, 85, 87, 88, 89, 92, 93, 94, 

95, 96, 143 

Oxford University Press, 170 
Oxoniensia, 178 

Palace of Ilios (lliou Melathron 

Schliemann's house in Athens), 

73, 83 
Palace of Minos, 133, 139, 141, 144, 

160, 162, 167, 172, 173 
Palaikastro, 134, 185 
Pandarus, 14 
Papadimitriou, Dr. John, 196, 202, 

203, 204, 206, 207, 223 

Paris (city of), 25, 27, 28, 86 

Paris (Alexander), 8, 12, 13, 14 

Parnon, Mount, 61 

Parthenon, 58 

Pasiphae, 105, 106 

Patroclus, 16, 206 

Pausanias, 43, 44, 45, 46, 51, 54, 57, 

59, 64, 70, 73, 76, 201, 205 
Pelasgian Wall, 97 
Peleus, 11 

Peloponnese, 27, 39, 41, 61, 100 
Pelops, 43 
Pendlebury, John, 133, 145, 165, 

167, 176, 178, 183, 185, 186, 

187, 188, 189 
Penelope, 27, 82 
Penrose (architect), 80 
Peparthus, 106 
Periphetes, 15 
Perseia, 43, 46, 59, 198 
Persephone, 195 
Petra, 27 

Petrie, , 122, 132, 135 

Phaeacia, 165, 192 

Phaestos, 125, 133, 134, 137, 147, 

152, 172, 181 ff., 187, 194 
Phaestus, 79 
Phaleron, 83 
Phthia, 12 
Phylo, 17 
Piccadilly, 89 
Piraeus, 176 

Pitt-Rivers, , 32, 84 

Plataea, Battle of, 70 

Polybus, 17 

Pompeii, 21, 81 

Praesos, 134 

Priam, 8, 11, 16, 17, 30 ff., 200 

Treasure of, 51, 73, 74, 78 
"Prodger," 88, 89, 92, 155, 176 
Proetus, 222 
Proteus, 43, 70 
Pseira, 185 

Psychro, 100, 122, 124 
Pylos, 16, 197, 199, 211, 213, 216, 

219, 220, 221, 223, 224 
Pyramids of Egypt, 57 
Pyramid of Snofru, 102 
Pythagoras, 73 

Quien, F. C., 23 



Ragusa, 87, 88, 91, 92, 94, 97, 98 

Harnesses III, 136 

Rhea, 104, 120, 121, 126, 146 

Rhodes, 190 

Rhytion, 79 

Rieu, E. V., 8, 17 

Rise of the Greek Epic, 14 

Rodenwaldt, , 65 

Rome, 142 
Rosetta Stone, 211 
Royal Academy, 72 
Royal Society, 72, 84, 130 
Ruskin, [John], 94 

Sacramento City, 26 

St. Petersburg, 24, 25, 28 

Sais, 184 

Salamis, 10 
Gulf of, 3 

Sarajevo, 87 

Sayce, A. H., 177 

Scamander (river), 19, 30, 75 

Scandaea, 52 

Schliemann, Heinrich, 6, 11, 20 ff., 
30 ff., 44 ff., 58, 61 ff., 66, 68, 
69 ff., 83, 89, 90, 93, 99, 103, 
111, 114, 116, 117, 118, 128, 
135, 139, 158, 162, 183, 192, 
193, 196, 198, 202, 205, 207, 

Schliemann, Louis, 26 

Schliemann, Sophia (born Engastro- 
menos), 28, 29, 31, 36, 37, 39, 
40, 46, 47, 48, 54, 71, 72, 77, 
81, 93 

Schliemann, the elder, 20, 21 

Schliemann of Troy, 74 

Schroder, B. H. & Co., 23, 24 

Schroder, John Henry & Co,, 31 

Schuchhardt, , 40, 63 

Scott, C. P., 87 

Scripta Minoa, 145, 210, 213, 215 

Seager, R. B., 126, 133, 134 

Sesostris, 209 

Shaft graves, Mycenae, 48 ff., 58, 
62 ff., 72, 93, 111-112, 116, 
117, 135, 139, 162, 190, 196 ff. 

Simois, 19 

Sinuhe, Story of, 208, 209 

Sisyphus, 222 

Sligo, Lord, 45 

Smyrna, 10 

Solway, 141 

Sophocles, 26 

Sparta, 8, 12, 17 

Stamatakis, ephor, 46, 47, 48, 49, 54, 

58, 65 

Staphylus, 106 
Stillman (journalist), 98 
Stubbing*, Frank, 185, 206, 223 
Sundwall, , 213 

Taverna (home of the de Jongs), 
109, 167 

Teledamus, 43 

Telemachus, 17, 60 

Telamonian Aias, 14, 15, 16, 51 

Texel, River, 23 

Thebes, 17, 115, 223 

Thermopylae, battle of, 14 

Theseus, 98, 105, 106, 107, 148, 
168, 187, 192 

Thetis, 10 

Thoas, 106 

Tholos Tombs, Mycenae ('Treasur- 
ies"), 6, 44, 45, 56, 57, 64, 65, 

Thucydides, 79, 105, 186 

Tiflis, 95 

Time and Chance, 84, 87, 133 

Times, The [London], 41, 113, 116, 
118, 125, 130 

Tiryns of die Great Walls, 12, 13, 
43, 67, 69, 70, 77, 78, 79, 80, 
83, 93, 97, 118, 135, 139, 223 
Palace, 71 

Tradescant, , 94 

Troezen, 12 

Trojan Antiquities, 40 

Trojan camp, 52 

Trojan strata, 32, 33, 34, 75, 76, 77, 


Troy, 8ff., 20, 21, 22, 26, 29, 30 ff., 
42, 43, 44, 51, 54, 58, 59, 66, 
72, 73 ff., 89, 111, 135, 139, 
167, 193 

"Great Tower," 34, 35 
Scaean Gate, 19, 20, 33, 35, 36, 


Walls, 76 

Troy, Plain of, 10, 11, 19, 27, 30, 75 
Troy, Sack of, 43 
Troy, Siege of, 10, 79 

234 INDEX 

Tsountas, , 65 

Tutankhamun, Tomb of, 36, 49, 65 
Tuthmosis III, 136 
Tychius, 15 

Tylor, , 84 

Tyne, 141 
Tyrol, 161 

Ulysses, 97 
Universal History, 20 
University Galleries, Oxford, 94 

Vale of Evesham, 86 

Valley of the Tombs of Kings, 36, 


Vapheio Cups, 149-150, 198 
Veti Pasha, 45 
Venetikos, Alexandras, 181 

Venizelos, , 176 

Ventris, Michael, 197, 198, 199, 207, 

210 ff. 
Villa Ariadne, Knossos, 82, 109, 

141 ff., 171, 174, 175, 179 
Vimpos (Archbishop of Athens), 28 
Virchow, Professor Rudolf, 74, 75, 

76, 80, 111 

von Buhn, Friedrich, 177 
von Holstein, Henning, 22 

Wace, Professor, 6, 7, 49, 57, 60, 
66, 173, 189, 193, 196, 197, 
198, 199, 200, 201, 206, 215, 
War, Civil (Greek), 3 

First World, 86, 172, 178 

Franco-Prussian, 86 

Second World, 76, 178 

South African, 119 
Warrior Vase, 67 
Warwick Castle, 56 

Wendt, , 23 

Wheeler, Miss, 134 
Wooden Horse, 8 
Worcestershire, 85 

Xanthus, 10 

Yalta, 95 

Youlbury (Arthur Evans's Oxford 
home), 143, 148, 173, 178 

Zahren, 22 

Zakros, 187 

Zanthoudides, 134 

Zara, Mount, 56 

Zeus, 10, 11, 12, 19, 66, 79, 82, 98, 
99, 102, 104, 105, 118, 119, 
120 ff., 126, 131, 146, 181, 183,